Now That Needle Exchanges Are Legal in Florida, Can You Still Get Arrested for Possession of Syringes?
Across the spectrum, American voters are increasingly showing awareness that drugs are not a bogeyman, and people who use legally prohibited drugs are not the bogeyman’s minions to be feared and punished mercilessly. Based on the referendums that have passed in red states, blue states, and swing states recently, the consensus is that adults should have choice to use cannabis responsibly, the same choice they have regarding alcohol and tobacco, and that it should only be illegal to use either of these substances in situations where doing so endangers others. Even with drugs where the potential of serious harm from even a single dose is considerable, such as opioids or any drug taken intravenously, people are coming around to the idea that blaming victims of addiction makes the problem worse, since it makes it harder for them to seek treatment and increases the likelihood of engaging in risky behavior to avoid getting caught. Florida’s laws decriminalizing needle exchanges are a step in the right direction, but in the law’s current form, it is still possible to get criminal charges for possession of hypodermic needles. If you are facing drug paraphernalia charges, contact a Central Florida drug crimes defense lawyer.
Needle Exchange Laws in Florida
In the summer of 2019, a Florida law decriminalized needle exchanges. These are health clinics where people can get new hypodermic needles and syringes free or at very low cost. The clinics also offer addiction counseling and referrals to inpatient treatment, as well as screenings for bloodborne infections like HIV and hepatitis C. They even provide naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses, for patients to take home with them to use in case of emergency. The target beneficiaries of these services are people who use heroin, fentanyl, or other drugs intravenously. While some states have had legal needle exchanges for years, treating them as a necessary harm reduction strategy during the opioid crisis, lawmakers in the red states of the South have viewed needle exchanges as encouraging illegal drug use.
In 2016, Florida allowed a needle exchange to open in Miami as a pilot program. The program proved effective at reducing overdose deaths and new HIV and hepatitis C infections. Therefore, the 2019 law allowed needle exchanges to open anywhere in the state. Central Florida currently has one needle exchange in Hillsborough County and one in Manatee County.
Possession of Syringes Is Illegal Except When It Isn’t: A Legal Loophole
While the statewide law enables needle exchanges to open and operate, local governments must raft their own ordinances about the legality of possessing syringes obtained from the new clinics. In much of Florida, it is still possible to get criminal charges for possession of drug paraphernalia. If the police find needles in your car at a traffic stop, you still need a defense lawyer, even if there is a needle exchange in your county.
Let Us Help You Today
If you have been charged with possession of hypodermic needles or other drug paraphernalia, let your Florida drug offense lawyer defend your rights. Contact FL Drug Defense Group to discuss your case.