The Sarasota Sheriff’s office announced on April 7th 2017 the arrest of 28 people on heroin and pill charges.
This is in response to the 300% increase in overdoses and deaths here in Sarasota County. Most of those arrested were white and half were young women.
There is a misconception that heroin and opiate addiction is only a problem in the black community. That is simply not true.
The arrests, mostly of addicts, is an attempt by law enforcement to deal with an epidemic or overdoses and deaths.
Four addicts died here in the last week from the heroin and pills laced with Fentanyl.
As a criminal defense lawyer, for over thirty years, I have handled thousands of drug cases. Prosecution and incarceration is not the answer. Prevention and treatment, combined with law enforcement is. What most of the addicts need is treatment for their drug addiction. The Florida legislature needs to consider a law requiring mandatory confinement in a rehabilitation facility for anyone who overdoses for ten days. If first responders are called out to treat someone who has overdosed, and if drugs or paraphernalia are found, the person should be confined in a treatment facility for no less than ten days of forced detoxification. What law enforcement is not addressing is the fact that heroin addicts most of the time lack the ability to stop voluntarily. Most addicts arrested for possession of heroin or possession of Oxycontin or Oxycodone simply bond out on the third degree felony and many shoot up within days of release. You have to have treatment combined with enforcement.
Jail is not the answer.
Drug Court here is Sarasota as run by Judge Owens has a spectacular success rate. He is a dedicated man genuinely trying to help people with their addiction. The new Veteran’s Court here in Sarasota has the same mission and deals with Vets who most of the time have issues from both alcohol and drugs. You can have a friend or relative who is a heroin addict and not know it. Many are “closet” addicts concealing the addiction from employers and relatives. Jailing an addict is treating the symptom of a problem, not the cause. It is like putting a “bandaid” on a boil. It covers it up but it does not treat the infection. As a drug lawyer, I understand that probation without treatment is a recipe for disaster and a prison sentence. Compassion for those afflicted with this terrible medical problem is an integral part of representation. We all need to do what we can to save lives.