From the Field

Successful Legislative Session for Florida Deputies


This has been another very encouraging year for the Florida Deputy Sheriffs Association. I am pleased to report that we now have more than 8,500 members, which represents more than 25 percent of the active deputies in the state of Florida. Thank you for your continued support and helping us to spread the word about the benefits of FDSA membership.

As I shared last year, one of our biggest priorities for 2017 was to play a more active role in the legislative process, protecting the interests of deputies and the communities you are sworn to serve. Working alongside the Florida Sheriffs Association, sheriffs’ offices from across the state as well as other like-minded law enforcement agencies, important legislation was passed that has a significant impact on your ability to enforce the laws of our state effectively and as safely as possible.

The biggest win of the 2017 legislative session was the passage of comprehensive drug control legislation to address Florida’s rising heroin and fentanyl epidemic. As our partners at FSA stated so well before the session, much of this recent drug-related devastation in Florida is caused by Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) mixing heroin with fentanyl, a narcotic drug prescribed to treat severe pain, to create a more potent drug.

The end result is a deadly combination that is overwhelming first responders. Between 2013 and 2015, FSA reports that Florida medical examiners recorded a 281-percent increase in fentanyl and a 280-percent increase in heroin-caused deaths in Florida.

The Comprehensive Drug Control bill, HB 477, allows a drug dealer to be charged with murder for causing any death through the distribution of fentanyl, heroin, or any mixture thereof; this penalty currently exists for cocaine, opium and methadone. The bill also adds numerous “Fentanyl Derivatives” to Florida’s Controlled Substances Schedules to include all chemical variants of fentanyl.

The bill was signed by Gov. Rick Scott on June 14, officially making the important legislation Florida law. The new law also includes criminal penalties for trafficking fentanyl and other synthetic drugs, such as cannabinoids and cathinones.

This will not, of course, put an end to the fentanyl problem, but it is an important tool to help get more synthetic drugs – and the people who produce and sell them – off the streets. And the less fentanyl that is available, the safer all our first responders will be.

This incredibly dangerous drug can be inhaled through the nose or mouth, or even absorbed through the skin or eyes. It is so small and powerful that the equivalent of just five to seven grains of salt can cause respiratory depression, respiratory arrest or even death.

So while we celebrate the fact that we have a new law that creates or increases penalties for trafficking in fentanyl, please remember that it is still out there and take extreme precautions if there is any chance that you would come in any direct contact with it.

Next year, the legislative session moves back to its early timeslot and will open in January. That means we are already looking toward our priorities for 2018 and establishing our legislative priorities.

We already know that one of our main priorities will be to protect deputies who have been sued civilly from having their personal possessions taken as part of the settlement. You may remember the case in Palm Beach last year in which a deputy was sued and had his car, clothes, television and furniture taken to help pay the expenses of the man he shot while on duty.

We are currently working with our partners in law enforcement and with lawmakers to develop legislation that would protect deputies from these lawsuits.

Being a deputy is a dangerous profession that requires making split-second decisions, and sometimes mistakes are made. There are proper ways for all involved to be treated equitably, and we will continue to fight for the rights of our deputies to be treated with dignity and respect.

That is really a big part of why FDSA exists. In addition to the list of benefits members receive – including legal counsel, insurance benefits, identity protection and more – our team is working all year round to ensure that your interests are being protected.

Thank you for your support and membership. We could not do it without you.