Eric Holder Orders A Stop To Charging Minimum Mandatory Sentences For Lower-Level Drug Offenders, Particularly In Florida

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week that he was ordering prosecutors to stop charging lower-level drug offenders with “draconian minimum mandatory sentences.” This order is the result of the enormous cost of housing small time drug offenders, costing taxpayers an estimated $300 million a year to house people incarcerated for drug offenses. The average cost of incarcerating a drug offender for a mandatory three-year prison sentence in Florida is estimated at $58,400, while the cost of treatment in a work release program is $19,130, according to an analysis by the Florida Office of Program and Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.

Florida’s crime rate is at a 41-year low, despite a prison population that continues to grow with non-violent, first-time offenders, most of who are snared by undercover agents targeting them for trafficking in small quantities of prescription drugs.

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.

Unfortunately, the tough-on-crime policy that prosecutors push causes many to overlook many mitigating factors in the accused’s case. In doing so, weak cases may be pushed as part of the public relations campaign put on for the media to appear tough on crime. Following coverage of raids and arrests, the media is nowhere to be found when defense attorneys are successful in having the charges reduced or dismissed because of a lack of evidence or other weakness in the state’s case.

Many law enforcement agencies are pushed to make these arrests, meaning that the relative amount of the illegal substance is of no consequence to them. For many, this means that having a single joint will end in a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the circumstance, and for some, a prison sentence that makes returning to a normal life free of the justice system a difficult goal to accomplish.

Remember, a police 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 the officer can bully a teenager with a bit of weed in his pocket into an admission and conviction?

Many times, the arrestee is a juvenile who simply gave into peer pressure in their early teens. If and when a juvenile has been arrested, the process of going through the court system can be stopped. If one obtains an experienced attorney, one’s attorney can work with the juvenile, the parents, and the prosecutor to see if staying out of the system, clean of a charge, is possible.

In Florida, some juvenile offenders are able to take advantage of one form of alternative punishment, called Pre-trial Intervention (PTI). Pre-trial intervention is a diversionary program administered by the State of Florida through the Department of Corrections (DOC). Eligible individuals who enter into a PTI agreement will be required to participate in a supervised program similar to probation, except at the end of the intervention term, if all conditions are successfully completed, the charge will be dismissed.

The key to obtaining a favorable outcome when young children and juveniles face criminal charges is thorough investigation of the circumstance of the offense. Through proper investigation, one’s experienced juvenile crimes defense attorney can determine if the prosecution has satisfactory evidence to establish guilt, and if so, will be able to help the juvenile fashion a sentence which satisfies the requirement for punishment, but is beneficial to the juvenile’s rehabilitation.

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: Push for leniency in drug sentencing has been a hard sell in Florida, Miami Herald

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