A report from the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch identifies Pinellas County as residing among the top five counties in the state for arrest rates for drug possession.
The report, entitled Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States, indicates that, between the years 2010 and 2015, 547 of every 100,000 residents of the county were charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony drug possession charge. Prosecutors brought over 31,000 charges in that time span, which is 10,000 more than the larger Hillsborough county.
The report’s author says this may point to problems with treating drug abuse as a crime instead of as a public health issue. But these numbers did not surprise Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who indicate that the numbers are from an era when prescription drug abuse peaked and coincided with the rise of synthetic marijuana.
The report also points out that many drug arrests occur during stops for other alleged offenses that are often more serious than those involving drugs. The study’s methodology did not take into account arrests where drug offenses were not the most serious charge, however.
The trial process was also examined in the study, noting that nine of every ten people charged with such offenses in Florida pled guilty or no contest. Authors of the study said that the trial is more of a threat than a process, as it typically led to further incarceration and “trial penalties” of significantly longer sentences if defendants pursued a trial on the merits and lost.
The Law Offices of Bjorn Brunvand has been defending clients accused of felony drug offenses for almost a quarter century. Contact us today to discuss your Tampa Bay-area state or federal charges.