House bill aims to reform minimum sentencing for pain-pill crimes

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Rep. David Hood filed a bill this week that would reduce or eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes involving hydrocodone or oxycodone. House Bill 99 establishes new guidelines for sentencing offenses often coupled with stiffer punishments for opium and morphine, reports Frank Fernandez in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Hood’s proposal would also increase the threshold for pain-pill trafficking from the current 4 grams — about seven pills — to 14 grams.   

It is unnecessary to lock up people for long periods over just a few pills, Hood told the News-Journal.

“It’s a nonviolent crime. It doesn’t make any sense,” the Republican from Daytona Beach Shores said. “Not to say that we are in favor of people abusing those drugs. But we should have some judgment involved in what we do; otherwise we are ruining lives and wasting money.”

Rep. Katie Edwards, a Democrat from Plantation, is co-sponsor of the bill.

A person convicted of possessing 4 grams of morphine, opium, oxycodone or hydrocodone could get three years in prison under the current law; 14 grams or more gets 15 years, and a person with 28 grams could see as much as 25 years in prison.

The bill would separate hydrocodone and oxycodone from the other medications, and would not trigger mandatory sentencing.

The new sentencing guidelines would be for more than 14 grams, but less than 28 grams of oxycodone or hydrocodone, there would be three years in prison and fined $50,000. Someone caught with more than 28 grams, but less than 50, a mandatory minimum of seven years and fined $100,000 kicks in; 50 to 200 grams would result in a minimum of 15 years and fined $500,000; 200 grams or more is a minimum of 25 years, and fined $750,000.

Greg Newburn, Florida director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums welcomes the proposal. He feels the current laws are “out of balance.”

“It’s a great bill,” Newburn told the News-Journal. “I think Rep. Edwards and Rep. Hood have really gotten out in front of this. It restores some rationality to Florida’s sentencing laws.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.