Florida Laws on Capital Drug Trafficking


Florida has long been a hotspot for drug trafficking. Traffickers from Central and South America take advantage of the state's proximity and multiple ports. Traffickers also blend easily into the region's ethnically diverse and highly populated cities, where they can ply their trade without attracting attention, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center's "Florida Drug Threat Assessment." Florida's rural areas also make it prime ground for homegrown and manufactured drugs. The Florida Legislature has responded with laws defining certain drug trafficking crimes as capital offenses.

Controlled Substances

  • Florida may impose the death penalty on drug traffickers convicted of importing, delivering, selling or purchasing cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine, methaqualone, amphetamine, methamphetamine, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, gamma-butyrolactone and 1,4-Butanediol. Some drug traffickers add adulterants to controlled substances, either intentionally or as residue from manufacturing. These adulterants may have similar effects as the real drug, but they can also cause serious reactions and lead to death. For this reason, adding "potentially lethal adulterants" to a controlled substance is also a capital offense.

Amount Thresholds

  • Law enforcement must catch drug traffickers with certain amounts of controlled substances for Florida prosecutors to pursue the death penalty. These amount thresholds help establish intent, and they vary for different drugs. For example, offenders who import or sell at least 150 kilograms of cocaine and kill someone during the commission of that crime will face the death penalty. Traffickers who import at least 300 kilograms of cocaine knowing it could result in someone's death also meet the capital drug offense threshold.

Reckless Disregard

  • Under state law, drug traffickers who create a "grave risk of death" to others or demonstrate "reckless indifference or disregard for human life" may face the death penalty.

Previous Convictions

  • Past convictions for capital felonies are aggravating circumstances under Florida law, meaning they turn a drug trafficking crime into a capital offense. Likewise, past convictions of state or federal drug distribution crimes constitute aggravating circumstances, but only if they carried sentences of at least one year.


  • Using a firearm to threaten, intimidate or injure others turns a Florida drug trafficking offense into a capital crime. The offender does not need to carry or fire the gun. Assisting, advising or authorizing someone else to use a gun is an aggravating circumstance as well.

Trafficking to Minors

  • Florida drug laws treat trafficking to minors more seriously than to adults. Trafficking controlled substances in school zones or to people under the age of 18 will make a drug trafficking crime eligible for the death penalty. Drug traffickers found to employ minors may also land on death row.


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