According to the Florida Department of Corrections, it costs approximately $49.49 per day – or over $18,000 per year – to house an inmate in one of the 56 correctional facilities across the state. With over 100,000 inmates currently incarcerated, this leads to a staggering drain on the state’s budget, prompting lawmakers to consider other viable options.
One such alternative, which has been implemented in several other states, is to decriminalize certain low-level marijuana offenses, thereby reducing prosecutors’ workloads and freeing up valuable correctional resources. While this measure is long from a statewide rollout, some of Florida’s largest counties are considering the option of making marijuana offenses a non-criminal infraction – similar to a traffic violation.
If you were recently charged with a drug crime in Florida and would like to speak with experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorneys, please do not hesitate to contact the Fowler Law Group today.
Counties to Consider Marijuana Law Overhauls
In June, 2015, the County Commissioner of Miami-Dade submitted a proposal to the County Commission to amend the county’s penal code as pertaining to the possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana. Under the proposal, anyone caught with 20 grams or less would be issued a $100.00 fine, which would be payable similar to a traffic ticket or similar non-criminal offense.
In defense of the proposed measure, the Commissioner expressed hope that the decriminalization would not only alleviate some of the burdens placed on law enforcement budgets, but also aid low-level offenders in avoiding criminal records.
In nearby Broward County, near-identical measures were proposed to reduce low-level marijuana offenses (i.e., possession of 20 grams or less) to mere infractions punishable by $100 fines. Described as a “civil citation,” the County Commission is expected to vote on the proposal in the Fall of 2015.
Broward County Mayor Tim Ryan remarked that “[the measure] wouldn’t be generating funding, but it would be trying to reduce the detention costs. I do know that it’s over $300 million that we spend on detention costs annually, so it’s a significant expense.”
Palm Beach County similarly followed suit and proposed the same notion of issuing a civil citation to those caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana. There, County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor reiterated the notion that low-level marijuana convictions unnecessarily hinder offenders from obtaining employment and create “long-term consequences.”
Work With a Criminal Defense Attorney Following Any Drug Arrest
Both felony and misdemeanor drug charges can result in significant fines, penalties, and jail time. What’s more, a drug conviction can prevent gainful employment, enrollment in college or university, or make it more difficult to obtain a professional license.
To avoid this result, be sure to contact a criminal defense attorney at Sarasota’s Fowler Law Group immediately following arrest – or even ahead of time if you believe an arrest may be imminent. For more information, call today: 941-404-8909.
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