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Florida’s New “Pill Mill” Laws Proving Difficult to Implement

Florida lawmakers recently passed new laws aimed to combat prescription-drug abuse in the sunshine state. The stricter laws target prescription drugs at their source, pain-management clinics commonly referred to as “pill mills”. However, the Florida government’s tactical war on the addiction of prescription drugs – such as Oxycodone and Xanax – is proving much easier to draw up than successfully implement.

The government’s campaign to curb prescription painkiller addiction has experienced hardships for years. In 2009, a new law called for a prescription drug monitoring database to be up and running by Dec. 2010. That didn’t happen, as contract-bid disputes, funding issues and structural concerns with the system prevented it from becoming operational. To this day, the drug-monitoring program still has not “gone live” (officials report its release is now imminent).

The latest setback concerns part of the new legislation passed in May. The newest pill mill laws mandate physicians to use new, counterfeit-proof prescription pads beginning July 1, 2011. However, this law put Florida’s population at risk, as many of Florida’s doctors weren’t able to obtain these fancy new prescription pads in time for the law change. Patients bringing the traditional prescription orders to pharmacies were turned away empty-handed. The government was forced to issue an emergency order suspending the requirement of counterfeit-proof prescription papers.

The prescription-pad problem is symbolic of Florida’s continuing woes with pharmaceutical drug abuse. Just when it appears the state is making progress, circumstances cause the state to backpedal. While there have been many mistakes made in combating fatal overdoses, one angle has proved particularly ineffective: increasing criminal punishment to addicts of prescription drugs.

Good People Become Victims

People who become hooked on pharmaceutical drugs are often nonviolent and otherwise law-abiding citizens who were taken hold by the highly addictive qualities of drugs like Oxycodone. While heavy fines and incarceration don’t solve addiction, Florida Law still calls for severe punishment for pharmaceutical drug offenses.

Unlawful possession of just four grams of Oxycontin carries a minimum of a three-year sentence in prison and fines of $50,000. People accused of drug trafficking face even stricter punishment. No matter the quantity of drugs, those who are successfully prosecuted for prescription drug offenses face harsh treatment in Florida.

If you have been accused of a drug crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. A lawyer will work with you to develop a defense strategy while detecting any weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case against you. A skilled and dedicated attorney will help you achieve the best possible outcome so you can move on with your life.

§  Non-Violent Crimes Increasingly Land Offenders in Florida Prisons

Florida has the United States’ third largest prison population, totaling a whopping 104,000. That number may lead someone to believe that Florida is home to lots of violent offenders, but a look at prison statistics reveals that this is not the case. Then who exactly is the State of Florida locking up?

The Florida legislature asked the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) to study Florida’s prison population and identify ways to reduce the state’s prison costs. In 2009, OPPAGA published a paper outlining its study.

Incarcerating First-Time Offenders, Non-Violent Offenders

Among other pieces of data, OPPAGA looked at one day in August as a case study on Florida’s prison system. It found that on August 31, 2009, 40 percent–almost half-of Florida’s prison population was incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, and 60 percent of them were first-time offenders.

Fifty percent of nonviolent offenders were in prison due to drug crimes , and drug offenders accounted for 20 percent of the entire Florida prison population. OPPAGA also found that between 2004 and 2009, 70 percent of newly admitted prisoners were convicted of nonviolent crimes. These startling numbers should prompt legislators to consider revising the state’s requirement that nonviolent offenders-especially first-time offenders-serve hard time.

Florida’s Criminal Sentencing Needs Reform

Another look at Florida’s sentencing laws would also help those unfortunate individuals who are serving time for crimes they didn’t commit. One such person is Leroy McGee, who was imprisoned for four years for a robbery he did not commit. McGee was working as a janitor at the local high school when he was accused of the robbery, and after he was exonerated he struggled to hold down a job. The State of Florida paid McGee $179,000 in reparations for the time he served.

There are several things legislators can do to reverse these startling trends. OPPAGA recommends funding rehabilitation programs, probation centers, and drug treatment as alternatives to hard time. It also noted that day reporting and supervision with the support of GPS would be effective for nonviolent criminals.

Accused? Protect Your Rights

Florida’s prison population demonstrates the need to take criminal charges seriously. Even if you are accused of a nonviolent crime or are being charged for the first time, you may face prison time in Florida. Protect your rights and contact a Florida criminal defense attorney to develop a defense strategy and achieve the best possible outcome.