Late last month, after receiving a tip, police in Polk County conducted a raid on room 246 of the local Stay Inn & Suites. Their operation resulted in the discovery of methamphetamine, marijuana, and firearms and yielded five arrests. The suspects face multiple felony charges and, if convicted, could serve decades in prison.

The raid is just one of several that have recently taken place in the area. Indeed, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office has lately seemed intent on cracking down on drug-related crimes. A similar operation in Lakeland resulted in ten additional arrests, and a months-long investigation, called “Operation Numero Dos,” led to several more arrests in Polk County and the seizure of nearly seven pounds of meth.

A drug charge is rarely just a drug charge

Offenders are facing legal penalties that reach far beyond those doled out for routine drug charges. The primary suspect from the Stay Inn & Suites bust, for example, was a familiar face to local police – he’d been arrested 13 times in Polk County. Now it appears the authorities are eager to keep him behind bars for a long while, charging him with armed trafficking of methamphetamine, carrying a concealed firearm, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and keeping a shop or vehicle for drugs. If convicted, he could find himself imprisoned for decades.

The message is clear: drug dealers ought to be wary. The Sheriff’s Office is hoping to make an example of offenders, in part as a means of deterring future criminals. When firearms are involved, the sentences tend to be especially severe, as Florida’s 10-20-life rule comes into play. The only recourse, in most cases, is to find an experienced attorney who can work with prosecutors to reduce the charges and penalties that defendants face.

For the Sheriff’s Office, meth crimes are personal

“Meth is one of the most destructive illegal drugs on the streets in central Florida,” said Polk County’s sheriff, Grady Judd, after one of the busts. “It ruins lives, destroys families, fuels violence, drives up property crime, and wrecks neighborhoods. Anyone associated with it-especially those who sell and traffic it-are doing violence to people and causing harm in our communities.”

His pursuit of drug offenders in general, and meth dealers in particular, is aggressive. The local drug trade is unlikely to cease; neither, though, will the local law enforcement’s efforts to curtail it.