Florida Lawmakers Propose Taking a New Look at Drug Crime Sentencing & Compensating More Individuals Who Are Wrongfully Convicted
In January, Florida made headway on important criminal justice legislation that would reduce the number of individuals convicted of low-level drug crimes and expand the ability for those wrongfully convicted to apply to receive compensation from the state. Below, we discuss how these measures would affect criminal defense cases and the rights of those wrongfully convicted:
Expanding Law That Compensates Those Wrongfully Imprisoned
In January, a Florida House committee approved a law to compensate those who have been wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. While current law allows for those wrongfully incarcerated to receive $50,000 for each year, it does not allow for claims connected to convictions for unrelated violent crimes to be submitted. The new law would also bar what’s known as the “clean hands” provision, which prohibits the state from providing compensation to anyone who has a prior felony conviction address anyone exonerated after July 1.
Drug Crime Sentencing
The Florida Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would decrease some mandatory minimum sentencing and penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs and drug dealers under certain circumstances. For example, it would place a limit on the sentence of those convicted of possessing small amounts of drugs (other than fentanyl) to no more than 12 months. The law would also provide judges with more discretion as long as the individual committing the offense:
- Does not have a previous forcible felony conviction;
- Is a first time offender;
- Was unarmed at the time of the offense;
- Did not use violence or a credible threat of violence while committing the offense;
- Was not the leader of a drug operation; and
- Did not cause the serious injury or death of anyone while committing the offense.
Although it would not apply retroactively, it would also mandate that investigators record entire interrogations of suspects held in a detention facility who are suspected of certain felonies and expand provisions allowing for those wrongfully incarcerated to apply for compensation such that people previously convicted of unrelated violent felonies could apply.
Certain Defendants with Mental Illness
CS/SB 464 is another important piece of legislation for those accused of crimes. Introduced in January, it would allow for:
- Additional support to be diverted to certain mental health diversion programs
- Courts to refer misdemeanor defendants charged with misdemeanor crimes for specific assessments or evaluations if the court or a party raises concerns as to their competency to proceed due to a potential mental disorder
- The state attorney to consider dismissing charges for a misdemeanor defendant if they complete all of the treatment recommendations included in a mental health assessment
Contact Our Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys to Find Out More
The team at the Baez Law Firm provides the very best in criminal defense services here in Florida. Contact our Orlando criminal defense lawyers today for a free case consultation to find out about your rights and how we can best serve you.