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Man Convicted of Drug Trafficking and Sentenced To 25 Years In Prison for Possession of Legally Prescribed Pain Medication Will Face New Trial

After serving two years of a 25 year sentence behind bars on drug trafficking charges, Mark O’Hara was recently released from a Florida prison without knowing whether or not he would face another trial.

O’Hara was convicted of drug trafficking, yet no one accused him of selling drugs.

In fact, prosecutors admit that he was not selling the prescription drugs that were found in his bread truck. O’Hara had a legal prescription for the 58 Vicodin pills that sent him to jail.

For being in possession of legally prescribed medication to manage his chronic pain, this man ended up being convicted of a felony and sentenced to a mandatory 25 years in prison.

Bad Park Job

O’Hara’s “crime” was illegally parking his bread truck at the Tampa airport in 2004.

Police searched the truck and found 58 Hydrocodone tablets, the generic form of Vicodin, and a small amount of marijuana. He was then located, arrested and charged with drug trafficking.

Because Mark O’Hara was legally prescribed the Vicodin, and aside from having the small amount of marijuana, had broken no laws, he refused to accept a plea arrangement. Innocent people don’t plead guilty and go to jail, do they?

It turns out that they sometimes do, when faced with charges that, although false, could ruin their lives.

When the case went to court, O’Hara’s defense lawyers had two doctors testify that they had treated O’Hara since the early 1990s for pain from gout and injuries he sustained in an automobile accident.

During the 1980s, O’Hara had been in jail for cocaine trafficking, but in this case he wasn’t accused of selling any amount of Vicodin to anyone. Prosecutors instead argued that under Florida law, simply being in possession of 58 Vicodin pills constitutes trafficking.

If O’Hara were prescribed only 2 tablets a day for pain management, the amount he possessed at the time of his arrest amounted to less than a month’s supply of the medication.

At O’Hara’s trial, the prosecution claimed that the “prescription defense” was not a legal defense to the charges under Florida law and the court agreed with them. The jurors who convicted O’Hara were not informed that it is legal to have Vicodin or its generic form, Hydrocodone, with a prescription and that O’Hara had a legal prescription for the medication.

As a result, O’Hara was convicted of drug trafficking received a sentence of 25 years in prison and was ordered to pay a $500,000 fine.

O’Hara sold his two condos, his car and his bread business to pay for his appeal buthe state seized the proceeds to pay towards the fine. However, in June, an appellate court finally heard his case.

“Absurd and Ridiculous”

The appellate judges reacted basically the same way that anyone would, and called his conviction both absurd and ridiculous.

The three appellate judges decided that the prosecution’s argument in court against O’Hara would make anyone getting their prescriptions filled a criminal. This is obviously not what the law was intended to do.

O’Hara was released from prison wearing paper clothing, with no money or personal belongings. What few personal items he did have, he decided to leave behind at the prison, hoping that he would also be leaving this whole ugly ordeal behind him.

O’Hara’s prior conviction for drug trafficking, along with the small amount of marijuana found in his truck with the Vicodin, may be the reason the prosecution is so resolved to see him serve a 25 year prison sentence. They have declined to drop the charges against him and have recently announced that there will be a new trial.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta said that a date for O’Hara’s new trial will be set at the status conference on the case on September 18th.