On Friday, May 3, Florida’s state House of Representatives passed a 296-page criminal justice reform bill during the last day of the legislative session. This criminal justice reform bill had been months in the making covering a bevy of topics that were due for an update in the state of Florida. While many proposed changes didn’t make it completely through, the changes that did pass are considered a small, but nice victory for the criminal justice system in Florida.
As said in the Sun Sentinel, “Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida, said modest reform is better than nothing, but the bill that passed represents a ‘baby step at best.'”
Here are four things you need to know about this new criminal justice reform bill passed by the House of Representatives in Florida:
- Passed: The bill is named “Florida’s First Step Act” and is similar to the one passed in the White House in January that takes small steps in lessening prison sentences at a federal level. It also encourages rehabilitation programs and early release for good behavior.
- Passed: Previously, a felony theft was assigned to goods over $300, but has since changed to goods in the amount of over $750.
- Passed: The new bill also reduces the penalty for the third violation of driving on a suspended license from a felony to a misdemeanor. Of course there are exceptions to this rule if the driver is intoxicated, causes injury to another person, or attempts to flee after being asked to pull over.
- Did not pass: One item that did not pass during this bill has to do with minimum sentences. Had it passed, the change would have lessened the mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses and the early release of prisoners charged with nonviolent crimes, with minimum time served being lowered from 85 percent to 65 percent. Had this passed, it would have saved taxpayers roughly $860 million over the next five years and would have emptied thousands of beds in prisons.
If you or a loved one are being charged with a crime in Florida, it might be time to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Russell Spatz has years of experience and is always on top of his game when it comes to the current state of the law in Florida. Give him a call today at 305-442-0200 to see how he can help you.
Frazin, R. (2019, May 03). Florida legislature passes criminal justice reform bill. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/442053-florida-legislature-passes-compromise-criminal-justice-reform-bill
Swisher, Skyler, and Skyler Swisher. “Criminal Justice Reforms Headed to Governor, but Are They Enough?” Sun, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 3 May 2019, www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/fl-ne-criminal-justice-reform-20190503-story.html.