Your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney isn’t surprised that one may choose to spend a rebellious youth seeking ever greater risks and ever higher highs. 
But let me give some unsolicited advice. 

Feral Florida Youth commit burglary and grand theft for drugs only to find its ashes of a man and two dogs after snorting.
Monet, Feral Florida Youth, 1886

If you happen to find yourself in another person’s home uninvited, say while committing the crime of burglary, it’s very unlikely that those fancy gilt urns up on the mantle next to the flowers over the marble fireplace really contain cocaine, heroin or crushed oxycodone. 

Yet three feral youth of Florida made some bad decisions after burglarizing an Ocala home by taking the cremated ashes of the victim’s father and two Great Danes, then optimistically mistaking the ashes for drugs and ingesting them. 

A Florida Circuit Judge in Ocala has sentenced the three snorters to eight years of prison, good thing those two dogs were already dead as the Judge might have given an even harsher sentence. 

Press reports noted that:
Detectives investigating the case said the accused men told them they thought the urns contained heroin, cocaine or crushed pills and decided to taste and snort the contents. After the men saw a story published in the newspaper, they realized what they had allegedly snorted were the remains of the victim’s woman’s father and her two dogs.

The eight year sentence is on it’s face unfair and unconscionable. Deep in the press reports hides the fact that the three youths were just that, only aged 19, 20 and 21. A Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer assumes that the sentencing Judge did not grant any Defense Motions for a Reduction of Sentence based on Florida’s Youthful Offender Statute due to the nature of the offense, prior unlawful conduct or other pending burglaries and grand thefts. Invoking the Youthful Offender statute would have allowed the Judge to go under the Florida Sentencing Guidelines to give a fair and reasonable sentence.


A new study by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project finds that soaring prison budgets do not provide the best path to public safety. The study singles out Florida as having wasted vast sums of money destroying lives with longer prison terms than were necessary for deterrence in averting future crime. Your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer wonders who did benefit from the enormous amount of prison overbuilding in Florida, which came at the expense of Florida funding for education, health and safety. 
The tragedy detailed in this report is much more than merely lost money. It represents thousands of lost lives in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Largo and Tampa Bay especially for those unfortunates incarcerated for long prison terms or mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent crimes such as fraudforged hydrocodone or oxycodone prescriptionspossession of marijuanaconspiracy and trafficking in drugs or  possession of cocaine
The report states as follows:

The nonviolent drug users in Tampa, Petersburg, Largo & Clearwater, Florida are subjected to mandatory minimum sentences
Cezanne, The Opium Smoker

…extended prison sentences came at a price: prisoners released from incarceration in 2009 cost states $23,300 per offender–or a total of over $10 billion nationwide. More than half of that amount was for non-violent offenders.

Drug offenders served 36 percent longer in 2009 than those released in 1990, while violent offenders served 37 percent longer. Time served for inmates convicted of property crimes increased by 24 percent. 
Almost all states increased length of stay over the last two decades, though that varied widely from state to state.  In Florida, for example, where time served rose most rapidly, prison terms grew by 166 percent and cost an extra $1.4 billion in 2009.
A companion analysis Pew conducted in partnership with external researchers found that many non-violent offenders in Florida, Maryland and Michigan could have served significantly shorter prison terms with little or no public safety consequences.


The grim war on drugs continues in Florida. Rather than attempting to get treatment for drug abusers the State of Florida and the Federal Government continue to destroy lives with harsh penalties and harsh sentencing. While the people’s true drug of choice – alcohol – kills more people than other intoxicants whether legal or not, undermining the very premise of the War on Drugs, that the Government is attempting to save lives.

The Miami Herald details the fall in Cocaine as the drug of choice in Miami, Tampa Bay and Pinellas, Florida, because of its high price per dose compared to relatively cheaper prescription drugs which are easier to obtain. 
Given that the purity of cocaine has been reduced by drug smugglers and dealers, users pay more and get less of the drug, while the drug users are increasingly turning to cheaper prescription drugs such as oxycodone that are easier to get, experts say.

Cocaine is “not disappearing, but it’s definitely declining,” said James N. Hall, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse. “People are getting half of what they used to get — and this is occurring in the middle of the economic downturn. Cocaine, the most expensive drug on a per-dose basis, is costing more,” Hall said.
Below find a link to James Hall’s alcohol study, which establishes that alcohol is much more destructive even than cocaine and methamphetamine, as cocaine is ranked fifth in causes of drug deaths, behind crystal methamphetamine and alcohol.

A Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer enjoys a small libation while awaiting a Jury Verdict.

Picasso Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto, 1903


In the nineteen-eighties most of the major industrialized countries of the world followed America’s lead in declaring war on drugs by harshly increasing sentences for convictions and spending more money on investigations and prosecutions. The result was higher percentages of people in the democracies being sent to prison, sometimes even higher then in the totalitarian countries. 
Minimum Mandatory Drug sentences are especially troubling for Clearwater Trial Attorneys such as myself who have seen the destructive force of the criminal law strike and destroy productive lives.
To the credit of our local judges and attorneys, Pinellas County has instituted an enlightened treatment for those who qualify, which will be described in more detail in a future blog. Adult Drug CourtClearwater Drug Defense Attorneys 

Yet for Florida Courts in search of justice some answers can be found from Portugal’s experience. Portugal, a gateway for drug importation for all of Europe, buckled under European Union pressure to commit a huge percentage of its population to long term prison sentences, then Portugal relented. Recently, the New Yorker wrote about Portugal’s solution, it success and its failure…

In 2001, Portuguese leaders, flailing about and desperate for change, took an unlikely gamble: they passed a law that made Portugal the first country to fully decriminalize personal drug use. 
For people caught with no more than a ten-day supply of marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, or crystal methamphetamine, there would be no arrests, no prosecutions, no prison sentences. 
Dealers are still sent to prison, or fined, or both, but, for the past decade, Portugal has treated drug abuse solely as a public-health issue. When caught, people are summoned before an administrative body called the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction. Each panel consists of three members—usually a lawyer or a judge, a doctor, and a psychologist or a social worker. The commissioners have three options: recommend treatment, levy a small fine, or do nothing. In most respects, the law seems to have worked: serious drug use is down significantly, particularly among young people; the burden on the criminal-justice system has eased; the number of people seeking treatment has grown; and the rates of drug-related deaths and cases of infectious diseases have fallen. 
Yet there is much to debate about the Portuguese approach to drug addiction. Does it help people to quit, or does it transform them into more docile drug addicts, wards of an indulgent state, with little genuine incentive to alter their behavior? By removing the fear of prosecution, does the government actually encourage addicts to seek treatment? In the United States, the misuse of legally sold prescription medications has become a bigger health problem than the sale of narcotics or cocaine. There are questions not only about the best way to address addiction but also about how far any society should go, morally, philosophically, and economically, to placate drug addicts.
Portugal Decriminalized Drugs. What Can the U.S. Learn? : The New Yorker
DEA, Federal Trafficking Penalties
Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences Drug Chart
Are Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences Cost-Effective? | RAND
Here’s a recent painting of a bright young couple eagerly awaiting their marriage license in Pinellas County, Florida.

Degas’ painting (1876) portrays grim Absinthe drinkers in a cafe, imagine how they’ll look when they see the bill.