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New Year Means New Laws in Florida

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed all but three of the 272 bills that came to his desk during the 2016 legislative session. While 67 went into effect immediately upon receiving the signature of the governor and another 159 took effect on July 1, three bills became effective at the start of 2017.

The three new laws in Florida include the following:

  • Senate Bill 422 (SB 422) — Signed by Governor Scott on March 25, 2016, this bill created Florida Statute § 627.64194. The statute provides that a health insurance policy that provides coverage for abuse-deterrent opioid analgesic drug products—brand or generic opioid analgesic drug products approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with abuse deterrence labeling claims that indicate the drug products are expected to deter abuse—can impose a prior authorization requirement for such a product only if the policy imposes the same prior authorization requirement for each opioid analgesic drug product without an abuse-deterrence labeling claim. The policy cannot require use of an opioid analgesic drug product without an abuse-deterrence labeling claim before authorizing the use of an abuse-deterrent opioid analgesic drug product.
  • SB 1104 — Signed by Governor Scott on April 1, 2016, this bill created Florida Statute § 48.092. The statute requires service on financial institutions to be made in accordance with Florida Statute § 655.0201. The bill also amends Florida Statute § 655.0201 such that certain financial institutions are authorized to designate locations or registered agents where documents such as summonses or subpoenas can be delivered.
  • SB 938 — Signed by Governor Scott on April 1, 2016, this bill prohibited manufacturers, distributors, or retailers or their employees and representatives from knowingly or willfully selling a finished drug product containing dextromethorphan (commonly referred to as DXM) to a person younger than 18 years of age. Employees or representatives of retailers selling drug products containing any quantity of DXM must require and obtain proof of age from any purchaser who appears to be younger than 25 years of age.

The DXM bill was passed largely to address the problem with adolescents abusing over-the-counter (OTC) cough medications containing it to get intoxicated. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), DXM is found in a number of common cough syrups (such as Robitussin and Coricidin) and illicit use of DXM is referred to on the street as “Robo-tripping” or “skittling.”

Violations of the DXM bill are punishable by civil citations imposing fines of up to $100, but new bills imposing much stronger penalties for drug offenses are already being considered for the 2017 legislation. SB 150 would amend Florida Statute § 893.13 to make any sale, manufacture, or delivery, or possession with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver a controlled substance offenses in a dwelling—defined under Florida Statute § 810.011 as a building or conveyance of any kind that is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night—punishable by mandatory minimum of three years in prison.

Additionally, SB 150 would also amend Florida Statute § 893.135 to create the offense of trafficking in fentanyl. Under this statute, trafficking in fentanyl would be a first-degree felony punishable as follows:

  • 4 grams or more but less than 14 grams — Mandatory minimum of three years in prison and fine of $50,000;
  • 14 grams or more but less than 28 grams — Mandatory minimum of seven years in prison and fine of $100,000;
  • 28 grams or more but less than 30 kilograms — Mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison and fine of $500,000; and
  • 30 kilograms or more — Life in prison with no eligibility for early release, although the alleged offense can be classified as a capital felony punishable by death if the act involved or resulted in the death of another person.

SB 150 would also amend the same statute to create the offense of trafficking in synthetic drugs, which would also be a first-degree felony punishable as follows:

  • 250 grams or more, but less than 500 grams — Mandatory minimum of three years in prison and fine of $25,000;
  • 500 grams or more, but less than 1,000 grams — Mandatory minimum of seven years in prison and fine of $50,000;
  • 1,000 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms — Mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison and fine of $200,000; and
  • 30 kilograms or more — Mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison and fine of $750,000.

SB 150 was introduced by Senator Greg Steube and was referred to the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. As Florida gets tougher in its war on drugs, it is critical for any alleged offender who is arrested for drug trafficking or any other kind of alleged offense involving a controlled substance to be sure to contact a Tallahassee criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

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Attorney Don Pumphrey, Jr.

Attorney Don Pumphrey Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney.

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