ACLU Report Shows Florida Counties Still Have Great Divide In Racial Disparities For Marijuana Charges

According to an analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union, The racial disparity in marijuana arrests in some Florida counties, particularly Alachua County, are among the highest in the state and above the national average. Law enforcement officers in Alachua County arrest more than six times as many African-American defendants as white defendants on marijuana charges, although research shows use of the drug is about as common among African-Americans as whites.

In states all across the nation, marijuana cultivation, distribution, and usage has seen a decrease in state prohibition, and such decrease in arrests has saved thousands of taxpayer dollars in court costs and filing fees for the court system, as well helping end the thousands of cases of accused who were filling the court dockets for a simple misdemeanor marijuana possession charge. Before state decriminalization of marijuana in states like Washington, California, and Colorado, cities with a significant number of cannabis users, like Seattle, would suffer from backlogs of marijuana cases.

For many of different races, marijuana charges were brought sooner and much heavier. In cities like Seattle, 58% of the backlogged cases involving marijuana charges were African-American defendants; African-Americans only account for 8% of Seattle’s total population of 635,000. Some of these arrests were probably repeat arrestees who were being hassled by law enforcement.

Blacks in counties all across Florida are much more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites, leaving many Florida counties with high racial disparities in their arrest records. No matter what one’s skin color may be, there are certain factors that may make one look like a target for a drug arrest. Profiling is not an acceptable practice; however, because it is still practiced, one should know what to do when stopped or frisked by police.

For many law enforcement agencies, an arrest is an arrest. The officer is being paid the same amount of overtime for an easy arrest as they are for a difficult arrest. In the mind of a police officer, what is the point in expending time and energy into arresting a violent criminal or group of criminals, when one can bully a teenager with a bit of weed in his pocket into submission?

For many potential arrestees, the situation can come out of nowhere, from being pulled over while driving down a Jacksonville road because the officer “smelled marijuana,” or being stopped by law enforcement while walking down the street, immediately followed by a number of harsh and accusatory questions and without one even saying anything, a law enforcement officer begins searching one’s pockets for drugs. Remember, these searches are illegal. You have rights. Exercise them.

Remember that one has does have a choice in obtaining an attorney to represent one. However, one should not obtain just any attorney. One charged with a crime of this nature should contact an experienced Jacksonville drug crimes defense attorney to fight the case and ensure one’s rights and defenses against self-incrimination are known and protected.

The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

Additional Source: ACLU finds wide racial disparity in area marijuana arrests, Cindy Swirko, The Gainesville-Sun

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