Jacob Sullum

But as the Florida appeals court explained, "a person need not sell anything to commit the 'trafficking' offense"; all that's required is possession of at least 4 grams of "any mixture containing" oxycodone. Hence each of Paey's 100-pill Percocet prescriptions, weighing in at 33 grams, qualified him as a trafficker several times over. Each also qualified him for the 25-year mandatory minimum sentence.

The prosecutors have suggested Paey's real crime was not prescription fraud but his stubbornness in turning down plea bargains. "He made his own bed here as far as I'm concerned," said Bernie McCabe, Pasco County's state attorney, after the appeals court ruling. Even assuming defendants should be punished for insisting on their right to a trial, does 25 years seem like a fair penalty?

Calling Paey's punishment "illogical, absurd, unjust and unconstitutional," a dissenting appeals court judge faulted the prosecution for abusing the law. "With no competent proof that (Paey) intended to do anything other than put the drugs into his own body for relief from his persistent and excruciating pain," he wrote, "the state chose to prosecute him and treat him as a trafficker in illegal drugs."

Outgoing Gov. Jeb Bush, whose own daughter was sentenced to probation and treatment for trying to obtain Xanax illegally, should recognize the senselessness of punishing someone who has never trafficked in drugs for drug trafficking. The appeals court said Paey's plea for justice "does not fall on deaf ears, but it falls on the wrong ears." Let's hope the right ears are not deaf.


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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