Admittedly, she had made mistakes in her life. Fifteen years ago, Stephanie George was pulling her life back together after a prison sentence for drug dealing. Suddenly, in the midst of healing herself and her family, she found herself in front of a judge again. She stood accused of drug dealing again, when police officers found a half-kilo of cocaine that she says was planted in her home by an ex-boyfriend. This time, she was sentenced to life without parole by a judge whose hands were tied by the nation’s stringent drug laws.

Ms. George’s story is not uncommon in Florida or across the United States. Increasingly, strict and inflexible drug laws have taken their toll, often on the small dealer rather than the major players. These laws cut across class lines, although the effects are felt much more strongly in low-income areas. When it comes to Florida’s drug laws, the amount of the drug you are caught with is an indicator of the punishment you are dealt.

Even the judge who sentenced Stephanie George bemoaned that he was forced to hand down a mandatory punishment that did not feel just. Keeping criminals off our streets is one thing. But the cost to taxpayers and to communities has become higher than the benefit of such merciless sentencing laws.

A strong defense is just the beginning of preventing a punishment that does not fit the crime. You need a defense attorney who is experienced and will fight against the trends of larger-scale criminals enjoying reduced sentences by handing over information on less involved parties. Drug cases are often more nuanced than they seem, make sure you have a lawyer who will leave no stone unturned in your defense.