Dealing drugs outside of a treatment center may soon carry extra penalties under a bill OK’d Wednesday by a House subcommittee.
Under the proposal (HB 95), drug dealers will face stiffer punishments if caught selling a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of an abuse treatment center.
The proposal also broadens a prosecutor’s ability to enhance penalties against a drug dealer if the sale of a narcotic led to the overdose of a consumer.
Republican Rep. Scott Plakon, of Longwood, is the bill sponsor. The House Justice Appropriations subcommittee passed the measure along a party-line vote.
State law currently allows authorities to enhance charges if a dealer sells a controlled substance that verifiably caused the death of a consumer. In that situation, a dealer may face death or life in prison.
Plakon’s measure, however, would broaden the law’s scope, allowing a prosecutor to pursue a first-degree murder charge if a controlled substance is considered a “substantial factor” in a person’s death. The measure would also add methamphetamine to the list of prosecutable controlled substances.
Prosecutors, a staff analysis explains, struggle with cases that involve multiple controlled substances or alcohol.
“We should default to the side of a little more tough than not tough enough,” Plakon said.
Democratic lawmakers including Rep. Andrew Learned are divided on the measure. Speaking during debate, Learned sided with the addition of meth to the prosecutable substances list.
He disagreed, however, with the mandatory minimum of the death sentence or life in prison. He plans to file an amendment to remove it.
“Nobody has sympathy for drug dealers,” Learned said. “This is about trying to strike the right balance”
The measure faces stiff opposition from activists and criminal justice reform groups including the ACLU of Florida and the NAACP Florida State Conference.
The collective, among other arguments, warned the proposal will likely increase the amount of death penalty cases and appeals at a time when public opinion around the issue is mixed. Death penalty cases, they warned, are costly.
The bill will appear next before the Judiciary Committee.