Nonsense, Absurd, Ridiculous, Inexplicable

I have to agree with Radley Balko, this is just insane.

TAMPA – Mark O’Hara left jail without handcuffs Wednesday, two years after he went to prison and one week since an appeals court ordered him a new trial.

He was serving a 25-year sentence for having 58 Vicodin pills in his bread truck. Jurors weren’t told that it is legal to possess the drug with a prescription, which he had.

Yep, you read that right, a man went to prison for over 2 years on a 25 year sentence for having prescription drugs for which he had a prescription. What was he guilty of? Good question; drug trafficking.

The opinion faulted prosecutors’ claims that Florida statutes do not allow a “prescription defense” in drug trafficking cases.

Using words like “absurd” and “ridiculous,” three appellate judges said the state’s position would make patients with valid prescriptions criminals as soon as they left the drugstore.

Tampa airport police arrested O’Hara in August 2004 after they found the hydrocodone and a small amount of marijuana in his illegally parked and unattended bread truck.

He refused plea agreements from prosecutors before trial, one for three years in prison.

Ahhh there we go, refused plea agreements. Apparently that seems to be the tactic of prosecutors these days: offer a plea deal, if it is refused go for the maximum and pile on as many charges as possible. It is really kind of smarmy, and one reason why I think so lowly of prosecutors, since it is a strong arm tactic to coerce citizens not to exercise their right to a jury trial.

Prosecutors did not contend that O’Hara, who went to prison in the 1980s for cocaine trafficking, sold any of the 80 Vicodin pills he had been prescribed in the eight months before his arrest. Under the law, simply possessing the quantity of pills he had constitutes trafficking.

Seems to me that every elderly person in Florida is a drug trafficker. The fact that 99.9% probably have a prescription is irrelevant to Florida prosecutors and so they should all be rounded up and sent to prison for 25 years.

There is more here,

The trial and conviction so confounded the 2nd District Court of Appeal that Chief Judge Stevan Northcutt must have rushed to his thesaurus. In calling for a new trial, he described the state’s arguments in words like “unreasonable” and “ridiculous” and “absurd.” Here’s another: inexplicable.

[…]

Two doctors testified at the trial that they had prescribed the pills for pain from gout and an automobile accident, and no one claimed he was selling the pills. But Ober’s attorneys and Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta stopped jurors from being told that the law specifically exempts those who have legally prescribed pills.

Interesting…so when O’hara was in prison what did they give him for his gout and pain?

O’Hara is only the latest victim of Florida’s schizophrenic drug laws. Richard Paey, a Pasco man who suffers debilitating back pain from an auto accident and botched surgery, is also serving 25 years for possessing larger quantities of prescription pain killers. In Paey’s case, Gov. Charlie Crist is being asked to consider clemency, which common decency would dictate.

Florida sure is doing a bang up job of taking away the Crown for the Most Idiotic from California. In fact, they might already have it. Florida: Home of the Stupid.

Update: In comments John Burgess argues that not everybody in Florida is stupid. This is true, just as not everyone in California is stupid either. Still we do some damnable dumb things in this state. But John does point to one thing that clearly settles the issue of which state is more dopey; Florida does have a “must issue” law when it comes to firearms and licenses. Of course, saying “Well, we don’t have laws quite as dopey as California,” isn’t much to brag about.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, , , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. cirby says:

    Seems like his first action should be to sue the defense attorney for being a complete moron.

  2. floyd says:

    Steve;
    Thank you for bringing our attention to this travesty!
    It seems “inexplicable, absurd,unreasonable, and ridiculous” that this story isn’t all over the national media.
    As you point out,this is not an isolated incident.
    Sorry to say, but it sounds as though there may be legislative remedies necessary!

  3. davod says:

    Why did the defense and the judge stop the defense of having a prescription?

  4. Fersboo says:

    Tampa airport police arrested O’Hara in August 2004 after they found the hydrocodone and a small amount of marijuana in his illegally parked and unattended bread truck.

    Was the hydrocodone and marijuana legal?

  5. Steve Verdon says:

    The hydrocodone is the vicodin, the marijuana was illegal, but only enough to warrant a misdemeanor charge.

  6. Radley Balko says:

    The “hydrocodone” the text is referring to is the Vicodin. The marijuana was obviously illegal, but it was a misdemeanor amount. Hardly worth 25 years.

    My guess is they were trying to nail him for the pot and the fact that he was convicted of drug charges in the 1980s.

  7. John Burgess says:

    Steve: As a Floridian, I’ll ask that you restate your assertion about stupid Floridians. Perhaps more apt would be: stupid local judges and attorneys.

    I’ll even accept “Stupid Floridians are really stupid”.

    But not all of us meet the stupid criteria. Why, some of us even voted for Bush in 2000, a majority, in fact. We also have “must issue” on the matter of concealed carry.

  8. Steve Verdon says:

    Steve: As a Floridian, I’ll ask that you restate your assertion about stupid Floridians. Perhaps more apt would be: stupid local judges and attorneys.

    As a Californian, I’m quite sympathetic to your plight. However, the problem is that these are drug laws that were passed by the legislature in Floridia…in short, Floridians, not all of them to be sure, but enough of them favored this kind of stuff for the legislature to put these kind of things in place.

    But not all of us meet the stupid criteria. Why, some of us even voted for Bush in 2000, a majority, in fact. We also have “must issue” on the matter of concealed carry.

    Okay, you win. You guys aren’t as stupid as us Californians. Damn, I was really hoping to shift that moniker over to another state.

  9. Grewgills says:

    But John does point to one thing that clearly settles the issue of which state is more dopey; Florida does have a “must issue” law when it comes to firearms and licenses.

    I don’t see how that would settle things in Florida’s favor. We may be stupid, but at least we’re well armed?

  10. John Burgess says:

    Grewgills: Nope. It only means that we have a healthy enough distrust of government that even the government recognizes it. We don’t expect ‘nanny’ to wipe our bottoms all the time.

    Of course, I’m not speaking for all Floridians. Fark.com doesn’t have the ‘Florida’ tag for nothing, after all….

  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    You guys should spend some time in Wisconsin, we are well armed stupid and drunk.

  12. FredW says:

    Wow – it’s a good thing Rush Limbaugh was not caught in Florida – he would have really been in trouble there

  13. Dave Schuler says:

    “Well, we don’t have laws quite as dopey as California,”

    Sounds like a good candidate for replacing “The Sunshine State” on the license plates.