A Florida Senate committee recently approved HB 6503, which would remove mandatory minimum sentences for the trafficking of certain substances. If it is approved by the Senate, it will allow judges to use more discretion during sentencing instead of being forced to impose a standard minimum sentence on drug dealers in Florida.

In 2018, 119,656 people were arrested for drug crimes in Florida. To illustrate how this currently affects people, being arrested for the possession of four or more grams of heroin would lead to at least three years in prison and a $50,000 fine. The bill would remove these harsh penalties and allow judges to create more suitable punishments on a case-by-case basis.

Florida Mandatory Minimums

Though punishments for people who traffic large amounts of drugs would remain mostly unchanged, people selling smaller quantities would not face mandatory minimums. Currently, the possession of a certain amount of a controlled substance would lead to three years in prison and $50,000 in fines. A few examples include:

The bill would give judges discretion in cases involving first-time offenders who were unarmed, were nonviolent, did not cause injury or death and were not the leader of an ongoing drug operation.

Additionally, Florida drug possession laws would no longer impose mandatory sentences on people selling substances within 1,000 feet of schools, community centers, and parks. Currently, a person who did so would receive the three-year, $50,000 penalty.

How the New Florida Bill Will Help

Backers believe if the new Florida bill is passed, the state will be able to save around $50 million per year, not to mention many lives. The savings could be used to help in addiction treatment or diversion programs in Florida. People who were wrongly incarcerated would also become able to seek compensation, which wasn’t possible before the bill.

The bill may signal a shift in the public perception of drugs and addiction, changing it from a drug crisis to a health crisis. The approaches of the past are not reducing drug-related crime and addiction, so bills like HB 6503 aim to help people instead of harshly punish them.

If you or someone you love is struggling with drug misuse, The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health is here to help. Contact us today to explore treatment options available to you.

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