A Florida circuit court judge is no longer accepting plea agreements for drug dealers accused of selling powerful opioids and heroin.
“Due to the heroin and opioid crisis plaguing this community, this Court will, as a general rule, no longer accept plea bargains in this cases in which a Defendant is charged with the sale, manufacture, delivery, or trafficking in heroin or opioids,” Judge Howard Maltz wrote in a memo.
Maltz wrote about Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida and the state legislature taking action to fight the opioid crisis, and believes it’s time for the judiciary to do its part. Maltz sent the memorandum to the offices of the state’s attorney and public defender on Friday.
Maltz called the opioid crisis a “cancer” that has “metastasized in the body politic of the United States,” and thinks rejecting plea deals will force cases into the open and improve overall transparency.
“There comes a time when efficiency must take a backseat to transparency and the public’s need to observe the entire process” Maltz wrote. “The public never sees or hears what went into the decision, but merely sees the end result.”
He left the door open for extenuating circumstances, and said defendants who are only charged with possession will still be able to enter into a plea bargain with the state.
“The Court acknowledges there may be situations in which a negotiated plea bargain may be appropriate, for example where a Defendant has provided substantial assistance to law enforcement … The Court will address those situations on a case-by-case basis. The Court will continue to entertain negotiated plea deals for those defendants charged only with possession of heroin or opioids,” Maltz wrote.
The number of babies born addicted to painkillers in Florida has increased by more than 1,000 percent over the past decade, and state lawmakers have proposed limiting opioid prescriptions to a three day supply in an effort to decrease overdose deaths.
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