There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about the effects of unchecked opioid abuse in Florida and throughout the country. Sadly, this is not just a case of media hype. Opioids such as heroin, fentanyl, and oxycodone are highly addictive–and fatal. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, in 2015 there were nearly 3,900 opioid-related deaths reported in the state. As reported by NBC News, this reflected nearly 12 percent of all fatal opioid doses in the United States for 2015, the last year for which complete data was available.
Central Florida Governments Focus on Treatment, Preventing Deaths
Here in the Orlando area, the Orange County sheriff’s office has responded to more than 150 calls related to heroin and opioid overdoses during the first few weeks of 2018. Local law enforcement and public health officials have responded by providing training in administering naloxone, a drug that can “override the effects of an overdose” and potentially save an addicted person’s life, according to a report by Fox 35 television in Orlando.
Other central Florida law enforcement agencies are taking a similar proactive stance in combating the heroin epidemic. In Marion County, Ocala police chief Greg Graham told the media at a February 6 press conference that his officers responded to 78 opioid overdoses in his city during 2017. Sadly, 16 of these overdoses were fatal, and the “average age” of the deceased individuals was just 38 years old.
In an attempt to curb this epidemic, Graham and Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn announced the city would implement an “amnesty initiative.” This will allow individuals who suffer from opioid addiction to approach local authorities and seek treatment without fear of criminal prosecution. As police chief Graham noted, there was no way to “arrest our way out of this crisis,” although he said officers would pick up struggling addicts and take them to a treatment facility.
Graham emphasized, however, that amnesty would not protect anyone caught selling or distributing heroin or other opioids in Ocala. To the contrary, the chief told the local press his department was actively pursuing at least two separate criminal cases right now. And he said he was prepared to seek murder charges against dealers whose opioids could be directly tied to overdose deaths.
Heroin Possession Remains a Felony in Florida
Indeed, do not confuse public health efforts to combat opioid addiction with a loosening of Florida’s strict heroin laws. Opioids are not treated the same as “recreational” drugs such as marijuana. Possession of any quantity of heroin or fentanyl–even trace amounts found in your vehicle–is a third-degree felony in Florida. This means you could be sent to jail for five years and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.
Especially in the current political climate surrounding opioids, do not allow police or prosecutors to run roughshod over your constitutional rights. If you are charged with possession of heroin or any other dangerous drug, you need to speak with an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney right away. Call the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, at (407) 377-0150 today if you need immediate legal assistance.