More Painkiller Hysteria from Florida

Here's another case from the same state that brought you Richard Paey's 25-year prison sentence, and Mark O'Hara's felony conviction for possession of Vicodin tablets for which he had prescription.

Penny Spence was arrested when, after a 2005 car accident, a police officer reached into her purse and found 48 Percocet pills for which Spence did not have a prescription (Spence was not driving under the influence of the medication at the time). The total weight of controlled narcotic in the pills amounted to less than half a gram. But as was the case in the state's pursuit of Richard Paey, for purposes of charging and sentencing, Florida law counts the total weight of all the medication in which the controlled substance is contained. In this case, prosecutors threatened to charge Spence for the full 49 grams of pills in the bottle, even though they were 99 percent Tylenol.

Spence admitted at the scene she was self-medicating with the Percocet. She'd begun to suffer severe back pain after serving as the primary caretaker for her mother, who had recently died of Lou Gherig's Disease. The Percocet had originally been prescribed for her mother. Spence had no prior criminal record, and there was no evidence she has distributed the medication to anyone else.

Nevertheless, prosecutors threatened her with a 25-year sentence unless she plead to a felony. Spence didn't want to plea, because she had hopes of becoming a nurse, which she wouldn't have been able to do with a felony on her record. Prosecutors showed no mercy:

...prosecutor Daus expressed amazement that anyone would criticize the house arrest deal he offered Spence—something not all narcotics defendants receive.

"If I had said, 'She's getting 25 years in prison, there's no deal,' you'd have a good story,' " Daus said. "But I think I made her a fair deal. She would have no prison time. It shows the system does work. I think [FAMM] should be giving me an award."

Spence, he said, "just wants to have her cake and eat it too."

I first wrote about this case on my personal blog last year. Last week, I found Spence's sister on an email forum about the painkiller issue. Spence's sister says that because Spence feared she'd get the same 25-year, maximum-security-prison sentence given to Richard Paey, Spence agreed to plea no contest to drug trafficking. For possessing less than half a gram of Percocet controlled oxycodone without a prescription, she was sentenced to a year of house arrest and three years of probation. She's also now a convicted felon.

If you've ever taken a friend or family member's prescription pain medication to self-medicate, take note.

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  • ||

    If you've ever taken a friend or family member's prescription pain medication to self-medicate, take note.

    That is a federal crime, anyone who has done that belongs in prison.

  • ||

    Where's the common sense in all of this, I mean seriously what's the underlying justification to such harshness? What would a first time rape offender get?

  • Episiarch||

    For possessing less than half a gram of Percocet

    Radley, not to nitpick but Percocet is the brand name of a combination of oxycodone and Tylenol (acetaminophen). She had the full volume of Percocet. She had less than half a gram of oxycodone, which is the narcotic semi-synthetic opiate.

    You don't want some asshole drug war supporter pointing out mistakes in your reporting to discredit it.

  • ||

    Are Florida prosecutors really that low on actual crime, that they must do this sort of nonsense? No reasonable citizen of Florida should tolerate that sort of malicious, vindictive behavior from a prosecutor.

    I suppose it's easy to not care about these kinds of things when they are not happening to oneself.

  • Episiarch||

    I agree with the above posters. What possible reason is there for this sentence? Isn't the reason we have humans prosecuting and judging so that extenuating circumstances can be considered?

    And the judge? Where were they in all this?

    R

  • Episiarch||

    Sorry, that was supposed to be:

    Radley, you have the most amazing capacity to make my blood boil, and I know I'm not the only one.

  • ||

    What was the cop doing rummaging through her purse?

  • ||

    That is a federal crime, anyone who has done that belongs in prison.



    1) The point is that this should NOT be federal crime. It shouldn't be state or local crime either. There is no rational justification I can think of to make this a federal felony deserving of 25 years imprisonment.

    2) She does not "belong" in prison. She "belongs" to herself, and should be free with no felony on her record.

  • ||

    What was the cop doing rummaging through her purse?

    Perhaps he asked if he could, she said no, so then he had probable cause. Or something like that.

  • LibertyPlease||

    1) The point is that this should NOT be federal crime. It shouldn't be state or local crime either. There is no rational justification I can think of to make this a federal felony deserving of 25 years imprisonment.

    2) She does not "belong" in prison. She "belongs" to herself, and should be free with no felony on her record.



    Agreed. We should not be imprisoned where there is no harm done to others, but we simply violated the will of the state.

    At this rate being arrested/imprisoned won't have much of a stigma soon. We'll all have our "first arrest" stories.....

  • jimmydageek||

    A little more to add to the story:

    http://cbs4.com/topstories/local_story_187202316.html

  • jimmydageek||

    The craziest part:

    "Under Florida's mandatory minimum drug laws, just 28 grams of a prescription pain killer carries a sentence of 25 years. Possession of the same amount of cocaine only gets you a mandatory three year sentence."

  • M.||

    Ridiculous.

    I wonder what the laws about that kind of stuff are like in Canada.

  • The Extispicator||

    Obviously, if the cocaine sentence would have only been 3 years, we need to raise that to 25 too. Nah, too soft on crime. Everyone who has any kind of illegal drug should just be hanged in the public square. Caffeine drinkers should just be kicked in the nuts.

    See how "tough on crime" I am?

  • LibertyPlease||

    As the country of God, with the Party of God in the Whitehouse, we have to ask: What would Jesus do?

  • ||

    Son. of. a. BITCH.
    This is the shit that singes my eyelashes. Who thinks justice was done here? Why don't more people care? This is OUTRAGEOUS. The WOD has got to stop.

  • ||

    """""Under Florida's mandatory minimum drug laws, just 28 grams of a prescription pain killer carries a sentence of 25 years."""

    How much oxicotin was Rush busted with? I wonder what his take on this is now.

  • ||

    These prosecutors need to be taken out back and shot, plain and simple. They rack up the felony convictions for their score card come re-election time by stacking charges and using every false pretense in the book to get people so afraid they will go to jail they just plea to felony. Personally I think if you want to classify someone as a felon they need to have served hard time in jail, not house arrest.

    On a side note Rep William Jefferson is still free to come and go as he pleases. Now lets see what directly affected me more, this chick taking a few pain killers or one of our Fed Reps taking bribes and selling out his office?

    Everyday I see new types of charges they come up with to stack on trying to get an easy plea felony conviction without having to do anything in court. Last week the new ones I saw were Maintaining a Vehicle for the commission of drug sales and maintaining a domicile for the sale of drugs. To me that reads, the guy was in his car when we found the bag of pot or was in his living room when we kicked the door down and found the pot.

    The stupidity is growing faster and faster as the reality of their faults all these years comes home to roost. Now if we can just get the majority of the fuckers out of office and past some sane laws we would all be better off.

    48 pills in your purse - 25 years in Jail

    90,000 dollars of FBI bribe money in your freezer - not a damn thing but re-elected again!

    Yeah there is justice in this country alright. It just hasn't been served yet on those that have it coming.

  • ||

    Oh yeah. What pisses me off to no end as well is how during election time which it is here in La, the politicians TV ads have them all saying Tough on Crime, Criminals be warned yada yada yada.. never once do they say if your a criminal POLITICIAN your time is up. Tough on crime for us but when it comes to ethics laws for themselves or policing one another. Criminals, what criminals? Nothing better than a bunch of fucking crooks telling you how they are going to be tough on crime.

    For once I want to see a Governers race contestant say.. All you working folks I am going to do all I can to rid this states payrolls of the fraud and theft and call out all the politicians until they are run out of town. I don't need to hear how you will be cracking down zero tolerance on johnny jay smoker when you have such bigger fish to fry sitting right next to you. UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

    Happiness is a warm gun I hear.

  • ||

    Where's the common sense in all of this, I mean seriously what's the underlying justification to such harshness?

    People want politicians who are tougth on crime, they don't want druggies endangering them.

    What would a first time rape offender get?

    Perhaps 5-7 years or so?

  • ||

    As the country of God, with the Party of God in the Whitehouse, we have to ask: What would Jesus do?

    If Jesus were alive today, I believe he would support the war on drugs because of all the harm drugs cause society.

  • ||

    If Jesus were alive today, I believe he would support the war on drugs because of all the harm drugs cause society.

    Naghhh Jesus isn't that stupid. It's the war on drugs that causes all the harm, not the drugs.

  • ||

    Jesus is a figment of Christian imagination

  • ||

    At least she wasn't caught with cheese.

  • Tym||

    I'm supprised they haven't had this problem in Wisconsin.

  • Salvius||

    One of my proudest moments from college was the time I used purely theological arguments to get one of those obnoxious university-square street-preachers to admit that it is not inherently sinful to smoke marijuana.

    I'm sure he realized later that I was the devil, but for that moment, the look of confusion on his face was priceless.

  • ||

    These prosecutors need to be taken out back and shot, plain and simple.

    No, it's not plain and simple. They need to have severe injuries inflicted on them that cause excruciating pain, which which they can expect to live for several more decades but which can only be alleviated with opiates (which will of course be denied them).

  • ||

    I can't even be upset any more.

  • ||

    Naghhh Jesus isn't that stupid. It's the war on drugs that causes all the harm, not the drugs.

    I suspect that Steven knows that, and that your sarcasm detector must be off today.

  • ||

    Seamus,
    I'd put even money on Steven's sincerity. Either way, I figure he was trolling and I was just biting on his line.

    Great cheese comes from Happy Poppies.

  • ||

    Great cheese comes from Happy Poppies.

    You officially win this thread. Congratulations!

  • Paul||

    If you've ever taken a friend or family member's prescription pain medication to self-medicate, take note.

    If you walk down the street with a cigarette in your hand, take note.

    If you eat trans-fats, take note.

    If you drink non-diet soda, take note.

    If you don't wear your seat belt, take note.

    If you buy cold medicine, take note.

    If an unidentified individual busts through your front door, take note.

    In fact, you should all just take note.

  • ||

    Noted.

  • ||

    Daus, if by some unlikely cosmic event you read this: know that you are an asshole, and your kids should be embarrassed to be related to such a cowardly bottom-feeder. Luckily, Daus and his kids are probably rich and powerful enough that if they are ever caught doing drugs, they can find Jesus and go to rehab, no charges filed.

    And no one will raid their house and execute their dog.

  • Robert||

    "If you've ever taken a friend or family member's prescription pain medication to self-medicate, take note."

    If it's a living household member (human or animal), it's legal.

  • ||

    The old New York mobsters thought of the police and DAs as simply another well-armed crime family. Increasingly, that is also how I see them.

    The standard libertarian refrain of "the problem is the law, not the law enforcers" only takes you so far, when prosecutors have virtually unfettered discretion and can ruin lives even without proving their case.

  • ||

    I wonder what the laws about that kind of stuff are like in Canada.



    I don't know about Percocet but Vicodin is OTC in Canada. Or at least it used to be, they may have tightened up since I was there.

    You have to sign for it.

    Antibiotic eardrops are OTC too. They are about a third the price.

  • ||

    Florida's Statute Chapter 893.135 is the law, and FL prosecutors use it to the fullest to force plea bargains. It mandates, among other things, a minimum sentence of 25 yrs, AND $500,000 fine, for 28 grams of any drug mixture that contains any quantity of an opioid. Percocet is 1.5% Oxycontin, an opioid.

    No surprise that the vast majority of cases fly under the radar as plea bargains.

    Readers should understand that enforcement against these "diverted" prescription drugs is but one aspect of an ever-escalating drug war. For a fuller picture, see www.november.org and link page at www.csdp.org.

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