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Harsh sentencing laws getting a second look in florida

Posted on April 26, 2010 3:00 AM EST

For the past 30 years, the Florida Legislature has enacted various laws regarding sentencing which are among the toughest in the United States. Florida uses a series of minimum mandatory and habitual offender sentencing laws that has caused the state's prison population to explode. Florida currently houses in excess of 100,000 inmates which is only exceeded by Texas and California. In certain jurisdictions, including Miami-Dade County, repeat of offender (ROC) courtrooms have been established to deal with the habitual offenders. While some believe the habitual offenders should be sentenced to long prison sentences to keep our communities safe, their have been discussions that certain minimum mandatory sentences outside of the habitual sentencing laws are Draconian in nature and need to be repealed or amended. Miami criminal lawyers practicing in state criminal circuit court are aware of the pitfalls of the minimum mandatory sentences.

Minimum mandatory sentences apply to a variety of charges including drug trafficking and firearm charges. The minimum mandatory sentences take all discretion away from the trial courts with a few exceptions. A judge can waive the minimum mandatory sentences if defendants are sentenced as youthful offenders or the defendant provides substantial assistance to law enforcement or prosecutors regarding other cases. The minimum mandatory sentences that apply to drug trafficking cases are part of the problem. In the 1980's, Miami and South Florida became known as the drug trafficking capital of the United States. As a result, the Florida legislature implemented drug trafficking minimum mandatory sentences for offenses such as cocaine trafficking and heroin trafficking. Minimum mandatory sentences were all passed for illegal pills such as oxycodone, as well as other non-prescription pills.

Examples of minimum mandatory drug trafficking sentences:

Drug Trafficking Offense

25 to 2,000 pounds/ 3 years
2,000 to 10,000 pounds/7 years
10,000 pounds or more/15 years

28 to 200 grams/3 years
200 to 400 grams/7 years
400 grams or more/15 years

4 to 14 grams/7 years
14 to 28 grams/15 years
28 grams or more/25 years

4 to 14 grams/7 years
14 to 28 grams/15 years
28 grams or more/25 years

In 1999, the Florida Legislature passed the 10/20/life law which created minimum mandatory sentences for defendants possessing firearms during the commission of an offense. If a defendant possesses a firearm during the commission of an offense the 10 year minimum penalty applies. If a shot is fired from that firearm, a 20 year minimum applies. If someone is shot by the defendant at the time of the offense, that person can be sentenced for 25 years to life in prison. Opponents of the legislation claim the prison overcrowding and high budgets are a result of these potential sentences, while proponents claim that the crime rates in Miami-Dade County have decreased as a result of these harsh penalties. Due to the harsh sentences that apply to these types of charges, it is imperative to hire a qualified and experienced criminal defense law firm to defend these cases. While minimum mandatory sentences apply to certain cases, a good defense team can break down a case to force the prosecution to waive the minimum mandatory sentence that is applicable to a specific case.

Given Florida's Budget, Some Look to Ease Sentencing Laws, Ocala.com, April 26, 2010.
Categories: Sentencing