An article in today’s Tampa Bay Times talks about a former Tampa teacher who has been arrested for drug trafficking after he was accused of stealing over 9000 hydrocodone and 7000 alprazolam pills!
The man worked as a technician for CVS pharmacy and took these pills over a period of just over two months. Previously, he had been a teacher at a Lutz high school but the principal has already stated that the man would not be coming back to teach.
This article brings up two important considerations: 1. How this current “pill scourge” can trap anyone and 2. the role of sentencing guidelines for trafficking amounts of illegal drugs.
1. Drug addiction may be more common then you can imagine: As a criminal defense lawyer, I get to see the real cost and face of drug addiction everyday. The common myth is that most drug addicts were always poor, uneducated and from the proverbial “wrong side of the tracks”. In reality, drug addiction can and does strike rich, poor, unemployed, doctors, lawyers, teachers and all professions.
The state of Florida has spent millions of dollars studying the patterns of drug addiction. The most important trend they found was that drug use/addiction has been starting at a younger age. These stats found prescription drugs in particular were being abused at a much earlier rate then just a few years before. This early experimentation that often turns to abuse is what many experts believe is causing the rapid increases in pill addicition.2. Sentencing guidelines for trafficking and the “war on drugs”…what you need to know.
When most people think of drug trafficking, they often imagine a drug kingpin such as “Scarface” or a heavily organized empire selling illegal narcotics. In reality, a person can be charged with drug trafficking not just on a sale but by merely possessing a controlled substance in a sufficient amount to trigger the trafficking charge! With certain drugs, it does not take much at all to be charged with drug trafficking. Florida statute 893.135 goes into great detail about the weights and punishment that may result from its violation.
In particular section (c) shows how few pills it actually takes before the “minimum mandatory” prison time and large fines become reality. This section reads as follows:
(c)1. Any person who knowingly sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, 4 grams or more of any morphine, opium, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, or any salt, derivative, isomer, or salt of an isomer thereof, including heroin, as described in s. 893.03(1)(b), (2)(a), (3)(c)3., or (3)(c)4., or 4 grams or more of any mixture containing any such substance, but less than 30 kilograms of such substance or mixture, commits a felony of the first degree, which felony shall be known as “trafficking in illegal drugs,” punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. If the quantity involved:
a. Is 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 3 years, and the defendant shall be ordered to pay a fine of $50,000.
b. Is 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years, and the defendant shall be ordered to pay a fine of $100,000.
c. Is 28 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 25 calendar years and pay a fine of $500,000.
In reality four gram’s weight worth of these drugs are not much. This is the weight of 5-6 pills, a weight that could put a person in prison for three years and give them a $50,000 fine! Another important point is that this weight is not just the drug itself, but any fillers it is combined with such as aspirin or mixers! For instance, if a person is caught with 6 MG of oxycodone pills they could be charged with drug trafficking. In reality, the actual amount of oxycodone that would be possessed would probably be well under a gram, the rest would be a combination of fillers and mixers.
Coming up, another blog post will go into more detail about drug trafficking sentences and possible ways to avoid or lessen these “minimum mandatory” sentences.