CLEARWATER, Fla. (February 4, 2020) — Two men are under arrest and face charges relating to their involvement in keeping a drug house running despite several people overdosing on drugs there. Clearwater police officers arrested a 31-year-old man and a 35-year-old man for operating a drug house after the police responded to an emergency call reporting an overdose at 209 S. Jupiter Avenue. Both of the men arrested by Clearwater Police were held on $5,000.00 cash bail in the Pinellas County Jail, according to a report by the Tampa Bay Times. Keeping or maintaining a dwelling home for drug use is a third-degree felony under Florida law. A person convicted of that charge faces extensive prison time and hefty fines.
Police investigated a drug overdose on a Friday evening and learned that the home, which was owned by a person currently incarcerated. However, the incarcerated homeowner’s brother was in the residence at the time the police responded to the report of a drug overdose. The officers learned that three overdoses occurred since September of 2019, including two in December of 2019. Two people overdosed in the home on September 3.
Officers also determined that the 31-year-old man overdosed in the home as well. Police allege that he was present in the home during several other overdose incidents. The 35-year-old man charged by the investigating officers told the investigators that he, too was present during several of the overdose incidents. He also told the police that his brother is currently incarcerated.
Police searched the home and found evidence of drug consumption. The officers wrote in the arrest narratives that they seized heroin and fentanyl in plain view in the home. There was no information that either of the two men arrested was under the influence of narcotics. Additionally, the investigators did not disclose whether the person who overdosed was related to the two people under arrest nor did they discuss the medical condition of the person who overdosed.
Florida Drug House Laws
Florida law punishes keeping a drug house as a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony in Florida is accompanied by a five-year person sentence along with a possible $5,000.00 fine. However, the possible penalty a person convicted of this charge is determined by the individual’s prior record. For example, if the individual is a habitual criminal under Florida law could be imprisoned for much longer than five years.
Florida’s residents have a vested interest in keeping their neighborhoods free from homes in which people use drugs. However, Florida law includes other buildings such as commercial buildings, storefronts, warehouses, and other structures under the definition of dwelling. It is a very broad definition but the broad terminology allows the police to investigate and potentially shutter buildings where people use drugs. The language is so broad that even vehicles could be included within the definition of dwelling houses.
Florida courts have jurisdiction over the state’s drug laws. However, it is important to understand that federal authorities also have jurisdiction to investigate drug crimes under federal criminal laws. Florida’s drug laws are very strict and carry significant penalties. The federal drug laws also carry the possibility of lengthy incarceration and huge fines.