A bill introduced by Sen. Wilton Simpson could mean heavier penalties and mandatory minimums for those accused of selling synthetic drugs. Substances classified as synthetic drugs include bath salts, synthetic marijuana and other similar substances and can cause adverse health effects or aggressive tendencies in those using them.
Currently, there is no trafficking statute that applies to synthetic drugs, which means that the maximum sentence for a conviction is five years in prison no matter how much of the substance the charges involved. Proponents of the bill believe it is needed because the current laws do not offer enough of a deterrent and argue that the way the law stands currently, repeat offenders do not get any worse penalties.
If the bill were passed into law, it would put an official trafficking statute into effect. Defendants accused of trafficking the synthetic drugs would face a minimum of 15 years in prison and a substantial fine of $200,000 if convicted of selling 35 or more ounces of the drug.
One issue with mandatory minimum sentences, however, is that they can unfairly penalize first-time and nonviolent offenders. If a case goes to trial and results in a conviction, there is nothing the judge or anyone else can do to try to lessen the penalties.
If the bill is passed, it will mean that the criminal defense strategy for those accused of trafficking synthetic drugs will be even more crucial. Defendants will need to work with a criminal defense attorney immediately after the arrest to ensure that their rights are protected and they are informed on all of their options.
Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Trafficking charge needed in battle against synthetic drugs, police say," Laura C. Morel, April. 03, 2015