Criminal Justice Reform Advancing Again in Florida, But Slowly
In January, Florida lawmakers initiated a number of criminal justice reform bills aimed at reducing Florida’s prison population. One of those bills would specifically reduce drug sentencing laws and is close to passing the Florida Senate.
Still, a number of these same lawmakers are pointing out that our prisons are full of very “violent, dangerous people” and this needs to be taken into account when we talk about significantly reducing the prison population here in Florida. Unfortunately, criminal justice legislation typically goes through these lawmakers’ committee, so their skepticism can serve as a significant hurdle.
Important Measures That Have Moved
Fortunately, there has been movement on other important measures that affect criminal defendants, such as a bill to repeal the clean hands provision, which prevents some who have been exonerated in criminal cases from receiving compensation, and another that would allow prisoners with certain medical conditions, as well as older prisoners to petition for conditional release.
In addition, one of the most important criminal justice reform bills that is gaining some traction is a drug sentencing measure, which would allow judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentencing for certain drug crimes, especially those where a defendant can demonstrate that probation is more appropriate than serving prison time.
Some of the noteworthy bills introduced include the following:
- SB 550 & SB 552: would allow judges to have more discretion in sentencing criminals and also allow those sentences to be carried out in county jails
- SB 554: would revise mitigating circumstances to allow a judge to impose the lowest possible sentence for an offense
- SB 572: would allow prisoners to earn up to 20 days per month to be used for early release (although nonviolent felony offenders would still have to serve at least 65 percent of their sentence and violent offenders 85 percent of their sentence before being able to be released)
- SB 1308: would allow anyone convicted of a crime other than murder, conspiracy to commit murder, or sentenced to life in prison when they were 25 years old or younger to apply for their sentence to be reviewed and reduced or suspended entirely
- SB 1716: would allow former inmates who reoffend within three years of being released from prison to apply for a resentencing hearing to reduce their sentences. It would also reduce life sentences to 25 years, first degree felonies from 30 to 20 years, second degree felonies from 15 to 10 years, and third degree felonies from five to three years
If You’ve Been Charged in Florida, Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a drug crime, or any other here in Florida, contact the team at the Baez Law Firm for a free case consultation regarding your rights under the law. Our experienced Orlando criminal defense attorneys can help.