Senate Bill 346 was recently adopted with a landslide vote of 39-to-1 in Florida, giving judges who hear drug-related cases a bit more leeway to decide someone’s sentence after a conviction. While deeply opposed by the Florida Sheriffs Association and other hard-line advocates, the move is generally seen as a necessary step toward criminal justice reform in the state.
Ever since the War on Drugs began in the 1990s, there’s been a “get tough” stance that has guided criminal proceedings involving drug users. That’s put a lot of people suffering from drug addiction behind bars, instead of in treatment centers, driving up the state’s prison population by 29% and increasing correctional spending 60%. As it stands now, warehousing prisoners costs Florida more than anything except education and health care.
Now, nonviolent offenders who are convicted of either selling or possessing small amounts of most kinds of drugs (fentanyl excluded) can’t be jailed for longer than 12 months for a first offense. Judges also have more discretion in cases where an offender has never had a violent felony conviction, did not use a gun in the current case and confesses.
Among other provisions, the new law also requires police interrogations to be recorded. When they aren’t, the judge hearing the case is required to consider the circumstances surrounding that interrogation and the failure to record before deciding if a defendant’s statements can be used in court.
This is a necessary first step toward meaningful reform that better reflects current understandings of what drug addiction is and how it contributes to the drug crime problem. If your addiction led to drug charges, there’s new hope that you might avoid a lengthy sentence. Find out more today.