The State of Florida is ramping up it’s fight against opioid addiction. Earlier this year, Governor Scott declared a statewide public health emergency against opioid abuse. More recently, Governor Scott signed a new Florida law, House Bill 477, which will impose stricter penalties for those convicted of dealing and using pills, heroin, opioids and fentanyl and the overuse of opioid prescriptions. As of today, Florida has new penalties and enhanced laws related to synthetic opioid drugs. There are mandatory minimum sentences for possession of fentanyl and its derivatives. House Bill 477 states that:
Controlled Substances; Provides that certain crime laboratory personnel may possess, store, & administer emergency opioid antagonists; provides that unlawful distribution of specified controlled substances & analogs or mixtures thereof which proximately cause death is murder; adds certain synthetic opioid substitute compounds to Schedule I; prohibits possession of more than 10 grams of specified substances; revises substances that constitute certain trafficking offenses; creates certain trafficking offenses; provides specified minimum terms of imprisonment & fines based on quantity involved in for certain offenses. Effective Date: 10/1/2017
It is very clear that we are in the midst of an opioid addiction crisis. Prescription abuse, opioid and heroin overdose is on the rise. But why is this new law so important to understand?
First, H.B. 477 sets mandatory minimum sentences for opioid users and dealers. These mandatory minimum sentences take away any and all discretion that a judge may use when evaluating the case of someone grappling with addiction. H.B.477 specifically states that synthetic opioids are now Schedule 1 narcotics unless used for pharmaceutical purposes. When a drug is labelled under Schedule 1 that means anyone convicted of possessing more than 4 grams of fentanyl is subject to a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in prison. Anyone convicted of possessing more than 14 grams of fentanyl faces serving 15 years in prison and possession of more than 28 grams faces 25 years in prison.
In addition to the new law, Governor Scott has proposed new legislation to help enforce this new law and fight the opioid abuse epidemic. Here’s what Governor Scott is pushing for – a $50 million dollar boost in funding and allow for only a three day supply of an opioid prescription. It would also require opioid prescribers to use the Florida Drug Monitoring Program, a database created in 2009 as part of the fight against pain mills.
It’s important, now more than ever, to know what is in your prescription, and that HB 477 can have a serious impact on an ordinary user not just a dealer. Judges have no discretion when it comes to mandatory minimum sentences. At Moses and Rooth we understand the severity this new law. We will be able to evaluate the evidence in your case and aggressively defend you against the charges.