An undisclosed number of students from Boynton Beach High School and Lake Worth High School were arrested recently by undercover school police officers in what is being dubbed “Operation D-Minus.” In an attempt to crack down on drug sales in high schools, the school police are placing officers undercover as students. In a mirror image of the 1980’s television show 21 Jump Street, starring Johnny Depp, the officers pose as students, doing homework, going to football games and pep rallies, with only the school principals aware that they are actually undercover police officers. And in art imitating life, 21 Jump Street is actually set to return, this time to the big screen, in a major motion picture scheduled to be released March 2012.
The Palm Beach County school police departments are doing this to crack down on drug sales, according to the Palm Beach Post. Students who were arrested are facing charges of sale of marijuana within 1000 feet of a school, a charge which carries with it a very high potential penalty. Those who are convicted would face up to 15 years in prison. Sale of marijuana is typically a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. However, this increases when it is sold within 1000 feet of a school. It then becomes a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years. To put this into perspective, that’s the same degree crime as robbery, child molestation, and even manslaughter.
If the students are caught selling any other drug on school property, such as Ecstacy, cocaine, or Oxycodone, they could also be subject to a three year minimum mandatory sentence. That means that even if they have no prior criminal record, even if they only sold a tiny amount of the drug, they still go to prison for three to fifteen years if convicted. Robbery, child molestation, and manslaughter have absolutely no minimum mandatory sentence. This minimum sentence may be avoided, depending on the age of the student and whether they are charged as a juvenile or an adult (which can be done even though they’re not 18 years old yet and it’s at the discretion of the prosecutor). The students would also be subject to expulsion, which is recommended by the Palm Beach County School District for any student who is caught selling any kind of drugs on school grounds, even if it’s only one marijuana cigarette.
These are very harsh penalties, especially if you consider the fact that numerous states have already legalized marijuana. And in all likelihood, if kids can’t get marijuana from the kid next to them at school and they want it, they may try to get it on the street, a far more dangerous proposition.