As reported in Summer 2006 Razor Wire, under Florida's mandatory minimum laws for drug offenses, trafficking charges are triggered by drug weight, without consideration of intent to distribute or prior record. If a person is arrested with more than 25 pounds of marijuana, more than 28 grams of cocaine or more than five Percocet pills -- which typically consist of 99% Tylenol -- law enforcement authorities may bring charges of drug trafficking rather than mere possession. Prosecutors have the discretion to increase, or reduce the charges.
I became aware of the issues surrounding the drug laws in this country when my sister, Penny Spence, was arrested for having 48 pain pills without a prescription. We were astonished to find out that 48 pills triggered felony drug trafficking. My sister faced a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years. At first we thought it was a joke, or some sort of mistake -- it could not be true!
If convicted of drug trafficking, a defendant faces a mandatory sentence of at least three years in prison. The mandatory minimums rise for larger amounts. My sister, Penny Spence, was facing 25 years -- unless she accepted a deal offered by Broward County Assistant State Attorney A. Theodore Daus III. Under that deal, she would get up to two years of house arrest in exchange for a guilty plea. But then Penny would have a drug trafficking and felony record. That would kill her hope of becoming a nurse.
Penny pleaded "No Contest" to "Felony Drug Trafficking" late summer and is serving a year of house arrest and two years of probation. Judge Lebow indicated that she was going to rule against Penny's "Motion to Suppress" and the Judge was happy that Penny was able to get this plea deal from the state. The punishment itself is not the bad part; the worst part is that Penny has to live the rest of her life as a convicted drug felon.
Our commitment is stronger than ever, and we are working with others in our county to change laws in Florida and throughout the country. We want to thank all of you for your continued interest and support during this very emotional and trying time.
For more on Penny Spence, see www.november.org/thewall/cases/spence-p/spence-p.html
Floridians for Criminal Justice Reform
A new organization out of Broward County, FL is taking on hard issues with passionate members in Florida.
Goals they deem most important in the coming years are:
1) Abolishing Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Non-Violent Drug Offenders, thereby giving the Judge the power to calibrate the punishment to fit the crime. Under current FL law, if a person has as little as 32 tablets of 10 mg Percocet pills without a valid RX, that person will be charged with FELONY DRUG TRAFFICKING and sentenced to a MANDATORY of 25 Years in prison. There is no early release and the Judge must impose this ridiculous sentence. These MAN MINS are:
2) Improving Conditions In Florida's Prisons. News reports abound of maggots in green beans, guards beating and killing imprisoned children, lack of proper medical care resulting in death. There are sex for drug scandals, corruption, and guards ignoring the humanity of people imprisoned. There are many people in prison that are NON-VIOLENT and were simply addicted to drugs and landed in prison because of their addiction.
3) Second Chance for Non-Violent Inmates. Looking at the current prison population and seeing which NON-VIOLENT offenders should be released and given a "second chance" at life. The only winners in the current system are the private prison companies that stand to make a huge profit from a growing prison population. The US has the highest incarceration rate in the WORLD! And this is due mainly to our draconian drug laws.
For more "Toons By Paey, visit www.november.org/cartoons
December 2006 -- We were terribly shocked and upset by the news from the court that Richard's appeal was turned down. (Editor: Richard Paey, wheelchair bound and in chronic pain, is serving 25 years in prison for 'prescription fraud/drug trafficking'. There was no evidence of trafficking presented at trial; Richard was just trying to adequately medicate his constant pain.)
We are asking everyone to call, fax, and send letters to Florida Governor-Elect Charlie Crist's office to support Rich's clemency/pardon request. Gov. Crist has an opportunity to correct this travesty as soon as he takes office in January 2007 -- contact him at:
Governor Charlie Crist, FL State Capitol, 400 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399, Ph: 850/488/7146 o Fx: 850-487-0801.
For more on Richard Paey, see www.november.org/cartoons