Florida prison system swamped, even as crime levels reach historic lows

If you have been accused of committing a crime in Florida, you likely already know that there could be serious consequences. But, you may not be aware of the overwhelming scope of Florida’s prison system.

Even as crime rates are at the lowest level in decades, Florida is seeing a booming prison population. If you are facing charges for drug crimes, you are particularly at risk for a lengthy prison sentence and in special need of a strong legal defense.

Mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes blamed for prison surge

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, the crime rate in Florida has fallen to the lowest level in 41 years. Nonetheless, the state’s prison population is spiking.

At the outset of 2014, Florida’s prison population was 102,225. Florida Department of Corrections projections put the prison population at 106,793 by the middle of 2017. Such an increase would cost the state an additional $58 million.

With crime at the lowest levels it’s been in over four decades, why is Florida’s prison population growing? Many are blaming strict mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. For certain drugs, even a first offense concerning a relatively small quantity can carry a lengthy prison sentence.

There are several bills currently in the Florida legislature that, if passed, would usher in less harsh sentences for certain drug crimes. For example, SB 328 would permit judges to waive a three-year mandatory sentence in first offense drug cases. Another bill, SB 360, would increase the minimum weight for a trafficking charge in oxycodone or hydrocodone from 4 grams to 14 grams.

These proposed laws are significant because laws reducing sentences for crimes are very rare. At election time, few officials can survive being portrayed as soft on crime. The introduction of these new Florida bills serves as a powerful sign that the public is getting fed up with fighting the costly and largely unproductive War on Drugs.

Contact a Florida criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with a drug crime

Even if the new bills allowing for reduced drug crime sentences pass, anyone facing a prosecution for drug charges could still be facing serious time behind bars. If you have been arrested for a drug crime, you need a strong legal defense.

Your Florida criminal defense attorney can help you fight drug charges in a number of ways, such as getting evidence obtained in violation of your rights thrown out. To learn more about how an experienced attorney can help you, and to begin building your defense, get in touch with a Florida criminal defense attorney today.