How Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Affect Your Drug Case?
Florida is one of the hardest-hit states by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although spring break merrymakers hesitated to leave Florida’s beaches, and the vendors whose bread and butter depends on tourism were sad to see them go, Florida has joined other states in realizing that it will take more to slow the spread of the virus than simply advising people to wash their hands properly. If the virus affects an institutionalized population, it could spell disaster. Authorities in Florida have taken measures to stop COVID-19 from spreading to Florida’s state prisons; so far, no inmates in state prisons in Florida have tested positive for COVID-19, but the Department of Corrections is not taking any chances. Until further notice, no new inmates will enter the state prison system, so if you are a defendant in a drug crimes case, that means that you will not be going to state prison in the near future, but what, exactly, will happen if you plead guilty or a jury convicts you?
The Best-Case Scenario
In Florida, as in many other states, the state prisons and county jails are overcrowded. Even with the rise of privately-owned correctional institutions, keeping people incarcerated costs taxpayers a lot of money. Proponents of criminal justice reform argue that the prison system sets people up for failure after their release; people who have been incarcerated in the past face an uphill battle to finding gainful employment and restoring their voting rights. One solution is alternative sentencing and pretrial diversion. Currently, people charged with first offense drug possession are often eligible to complete drug treatment in exchange for getting their charges dropped. An effort to prevent the county jails from becoming overcrowded could lead to more defendants being sent to drug treatment or receiving non-incarceration sentences like probation, home detention, monitoring by ankle bracelets, fines, or community service.
The Worst-Case Scenario
Although Florida judges can no longer sentence defendants to state prison, nor can county jails transfer them, there is thus far no rule against sending defendants to county jail. Brief sentences in county jail are a common penalty for misdemeanors. County jails are also overcrowded, and at least one jail in Miami-Dade County has had a COVID-19 scare, leading to employees being quarantined. The current crisis could lead to people who would otherwise have been sent to state prison going instead to county jail, where there is still the problem of overcrowding. If inmates in a county jail are exposed to COVID-19, the virus could sicken many people.
Let Us Help You Today
Your goal, as a defendant, is to stay out of correctional facilities, whether that means taking a plea deal or fighting your charges. Even though your chances of being incarcerated are lower because of the COVID-19 pandemic response, you still need a Florida drug offense lawyer. Contact FL Drug Defense Group to discuss your case.