SARASOTA, FL (October 22, 2019) - writes that 95 people are facing charges after the Sarasota Police Department and other cooperating law enforcement agencies targeted drug and firearm sales through Operation SURGE.

Many of the individuals arrested as part of the operation were also facing previous charges. All combined, the just over one hundred people who were involved in illegal drug or firearm possession within the time period of the operation- which was from January 2019 through September 2019- had 2,561 previous charges, and as a result of their arrests and trials, there were 687 related felony convictions. Twenty-six of the people charged had at least 10 previous felony convictions. 

A total of 109 people were arrested, but one was offered a deferred prosecution deal after successfully completing an intervention program. Six of the suspects arrested were indicted by a Grand Jury and will be tried in federal court. The remaining 95 will face charges in Florida. 

The police released a list of another eleven individuals who have not yet been arrested. The remaining suspects range in age from 21 to 57. 

Operation SURGE stands for Sarasota Unified Reduction Gun Enforcement. The program was developed to curb the gun violence that has been impacting the city of Sarasota. Through the SURGE efforts, undercover officers purchased drugs and illegal firearms from suspected dealers based on police intelligence. The program recently came to an end and was considered a success because of the high number of suspects arrested. 

Drug Trafficking Laws in Florida

Drug trafficking charges in Florida are more severe than possession of the substance. Upgrading charges to trafficking is typically a matter of the amount of the drug a person possesses. In the case of marijuana, possession of 25 pounds means the person will face trafficking charges; for cocaine, 28 grams is enough to upgrade to trafficking. 

The consequences for trafficking in a controlled substance also vary in part based on the substance in question. Drugs are divided into schedules based on how much damage the substance is thought to cause. Schedule I drugs are considered the most severe drugs to possess because the state believes these substances present a high risk of abuse and do not serve any medical purposes. Heroin, LSD, and marijuana are Schedule I drugs in Florida. Schedule II drugs include cocaine, opium, and morphine, which present severe risks of abuse, but which are considered to have some possible medical uses. Schedule III drugs tend to have common medical uses, but the opportunity for addiction and abuse as well. 

Other factors that may increase the chances of a harsh sentence would include sales that happened near a school and whether the person selling the drug is a habitual drug dealer. 

Sentencing for drug-related offenses varies greatly. Defendants facing drug charges require professional legal advice to determine the best strategy for fighting the charges against them.