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Florida legislators seeking changes to drug laws

Legislators in Florida are calling for drug reform, and that reform could be positive for you if you face drug charges. There are bills seeking judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences, which would allow judges more leeway in deciding on a person's sentence. Along with this legislation, lawmakers also hope to increase the total funding for substance abuse treatment. They would like to add another $50 million to the budget for substance abuse treatment alone.

The trouble some are having is that allowing judges to determine minimum sentences or to adjust sentencing per individual could result in public backlash or judgments. There may not be the consistency that is necessary, and that could actually hurt those the bill is there to help. Some individuals, particularly minorities, make up a disproportionate amount of people in trouble for drug crimes, and being able to manipulate mandatory minimums could help reduce the risk of unfair penalties. Unfortunately, without appropriate data collection, it would be hard to tell if those individuals actually were opened to more bias or harsher penalties by removing a minimum requirement.

Presently, it's been shown that black individuals convicted on mandatory minimums spend 39 percent longer in prison than whites on similar sentences. Allowing judges to have discretion could help them account for issues like this, so everyone is treated fairly.

Drug charges vary across the country, with some states requiring mandatory minimums and some not. If Florida eliminates them or allows judges to determine penalties on a case-by-case basis, it could be beneficial for you. Your attorney can talk to you more about how a change in the law could affect your case.

Source: Herald-Tribune, "Florida legislators call for reforms for drug crimes," Josh Salman, Jan. 10, 2018

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