On behalf of The Law Office of Gustavo E. Frances, P.A.
In 2008, Tarahrick Terry was arrested for possessing 3.9 grams of “crack cocaine.” He was sentenced to over 15 years in prison. This case would seem like a low-level offense. If convicted today, current sentencing laws would allow for much lighter sentences, but Terry was sentenced before the laws were modified, made to live with an outdated punishment that outweighs his crimes.
The Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys at The Law Office of Gustavo E. Frances, P.A. fight for our clients facing drug charges, helping them receive the best possible results in court.
A Timeline of Unfair Drug Sentencing
1979: Florida becomes one of the first states to pass mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws. Meant to handle serious drug dealers and dam the flood of drugs pouring into the country. Instead, these laws ensnare the addicted, low-level, and first-time dealers.
2012: The Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) examines 1,200 inmates sentenced for low-level drug offences 13 years after even more severe sentencing laws were passed. In these cases, 74% of them arrested for possessing or selling hydrocodone and oxycodone were first-time offenders.
2014: Florida lawmakers make changes, increasing the amounts of illegal substances that trigger long mandatory prison sentences, but the Florida Constitution prohibits sentencing reform to be applied retroactively.
2018: Statistics report that it costs Florida Taxpayers more than $21,000 to house a prisoner per year or about $60 a day. Informed by these numbers, voters repeal the anti-retroactive clause in the Florida Constitution, but the amendment reads as vague and interpretive.
2018: The First Step Act addresses systemic injustices, attempting to limit overcrowded prisons and federal incarcerations. The wording is criticized as ambiguous and unclear on policy regarding “covered offences” and retroactive sentence reduction for low-level drug offenses.
2019: OPPAGA analyze the more than 96,000 inmates of state prisons. An estimated 5% (4696) are serving mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. More than 45% of these offenders were first-time and non-violent offenders. More than 900 inmates serving the 15–25-year mandatory sentences would have received far less severe sentences under current state law. It also explains how imprisoning lower-level offenders leads to higher rates of recidivism compared to identical offenders receiving sentences of community supervision.
2021: Tarahrick Terry’s lawyers argue his case before the Supreme Court of the United States. The court unanimously affirms the previous decision, explaining that some low-level crack-cocaine offenders with disproportionately long sentences are ineligible for sentencing reductions under the First Step Act.
When should I contact a lawyer?
Bills proposing reduced penalties for drug offenses are making the rounds. But as it currently stands, the Florida Legislature deems it unlawful for individuals to possess, sell, intend to sell, manufacture, or deliver a controlled substance. These offenses often carry severe consequences.
If you are arrested for a drug crime, do not communicate with police detectives, state attorneys, or other government personnel without your lawyer by your side. The Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys at The Law Office of Gustavo E. Frances, P.A. are here when you need us.