Assistant Public Defender Robert Power reminded the Court that Hannigan had been suicidal when he was picked up in a park for an open container violation in November, 2009. He had stolen 31 pills from his mother (24.5 grams) and was planning to ingest them. His original intent was to commit suicide at his ex-girlfriend's home (she had recently ended the relationship), but she came home and kicked him out. Law enforcement had been called, and because he was on foot, he was quickly located at a nearby park with a bottle of partially consumed beer.
As one officer was putting him under arrest, a witness in the park notified another officer that the defendant had dropped something on the ground. The second officer retrieved a bag of pills.
A sensible person would think "that's only Possession - not Trafficking!" But the quantity of pills involved has been deemed by the Florida Legislature to assume that if you have that many pills on you without a prescription, you're a dealer.
Mr. Power tried unsuccessfully to argue mitigation. But there was a jury verdict and a minimum mandatory sentence that tied the judge's hands. Apparently, the legislators in Tallahassee have it all figured out. By removing any discretion from the judge's ability to sentence this defendant based on the circumstances of the case, Mr. Hannigan loses his freedom for the full 15 years (no gain time permitted) and the taxpayers will foot the bill.
I would say it's a lose-lose situation all the way around.
Florida Statute 893.135(1)(C) states:
Any person who knowingly sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, 4 grams or more of any morphine, opium, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, or any salt, derivative, isomer, or salt of an isomer thereof, including heroin, as described in s. 893.03(1)(b), (2)(a), (3)(c)3., or (3)(c)4., or 4 grams or more of any mixture containing any such substance, but less than 30 kilograms of such substance or mixture, commits a felony of the first degree, which felony shall be known as "trafficking in illegal drugs," punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. If the quantity involved:
a. Is 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 3 years, and the defendant shall be ordered to pay a fine of $50,000.
b. Is 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years, and the defendant shall be ordered to pay a fine of $100,000.
c. Is 28 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 25 calendar years and pay a fine of $500,000.
There's got to be a better way to handle cases of this nature. A judge's hands should not be tied by Tallahassee when mental health issues are involved. Send this blog to your senator and representative in the legislature and ask them to re-visit this part of the Statute.
Finally, CourtWatch wonders what compelled the State to go for the jugular on this case.
At the conclusion of today's hearing, the defendant stated "all I wanted was treatment - this won't help me at all." Judge Shea showed obvious concern for the defendant and was clearly frustrated with what the law required him to do.
A Notice of Appeal was filed on his client's behalf by Mr. Power. But unless the law changes, it looks like Mr. Hannigan is stuck with the full 15 years.
PS: Mr. Hannigan's sentencing scoresheet totaled 91.6 points, 74 of which belong to this offense. Were it not for the minimum mandatory sentence, he would have scored 47.7 months (with eligibility for gain time). Previous convictions were primarily theft related. Defendant has no convictions for crimes of violence.
PPS: It would seem to CourtWatch that the legislature never took into account that someone with mental health issues might use a large quantity of drugs to commit suicide. Dr. Jeffrey Danziger was prepared to testify that the defendant suffered from clinical depression, but because there was no opportunity (by law) to hear mitigating factors, Judge Shea did not hear his report.