Category Archives: Legislation

Criminal Justice Legislative Update

Updates to Florida Criminal Justice Laws From 2019 Legislative Session

By: Adam L. Bantner, II

Board Certified Criminal Trial Attorney

The 2019 Florida legislative session saw some significant changes to the criminal statutes. Some of these changes are significant (removing the requirement for a Youthful Offender sentence that a defendant be sentenced prior to their 21st birthday) while some make you wonder if it was really necessary (removing 1-year minimum mandatory for sale and distribution of horse meat).

Regardless, the reforms are mostly positive for those who practice in the world of criminal defense. I attempt to lay out most of the changes below.

Harm to Police Animals

SB 96: Increases the penalty from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony for any person who intentionally and knowingly, without lawful cause or justification, causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or death to, or uses a deadly weapon upon, a police canine dog, fire canine dog, SAR canine dog, or police horse.

Child-like Sex Dolls

SB 160: Makes it a third-degree felony to sell, distribute or possess with intent to sell or distribute a child-like sex doll. Makes possession of such a doll a first-degree misdemeanor.

Expansion of Eligibility for Veterans’ Court

SB 910: Adds individuals who are current or former United States Department of Defense contractors; and individuals who are current or former military members of a foreign allied country to those eligible Veterans’ Court Treatment Program

Texting and Driving

HB 107: Make texting and driving a primary offense, i.e., you can be pulled over for it. It also makes it offense to use a phone in any hand-held manner in a school or construction zone.

Many Changes in One Bill

HB 7125: An omnibus criminal justice bill that makes many changes. Some of the highlights are:

  • Reduces the driver’s license suspension for drug offense convictions from 1 year to 6 months. Suspension can be shortened upon drug abuse evaluation and completion of any recommended treatment. Additional, court “upon a finding of compelling circumstances,” may direct DHSMV to issue a business purpose only license.
  • A third conviction of Driving on a Suspended/Revoked License now will require at least 10 days in jail.
  • Removed minimum mandatory sentence of 1 year for offenses related to the sale and distribution of horse meat.
  • Raises the felony threshold for theft of food and lodging services from $300 to $1,000.
  • Removes driver’s license suspension penalty for offenses related to selling to and possession of alcohol by persons under 21 years of age.
  • Reduces possession of distilling materials from a felony to a misdemeanor.
  • Reduces penalties for possession of moonshine.
  • Increases the threshold for felony grand theft from $300 to $750.
  • Reduces from a felony to a misdemeanor the keeping of a gambling house.
  • Increases minimum mandatory weight thresholds for trafficking in hydrocodone
  • Allowing for expunction of charges dismissed due to lawful self-defense.
  • Allowing for automatic early termination of probation or conversion to administrative probation upon completion of at least half of term and all the special conditions of probation.
  • Creation of an alternative sanction program for first-time technical violators of probation provided certain eligibility requirements are met.
  • Creation of a community-based court program for certain misdemeanor offenses.
  • Allows persons to be sentenced as a youthful offender, so long as they otherwise qualify, so long as the crime was committed before they turned 21 years of age (prior requirement was to be sentenced before turning 21 years of age).
  • Deletes mandatory direct-file of certain juvenile offenders.

2017 Legislative Update – Criminal Justice Version

By: Adam L. Bantner, II

Board Certified Criminal Trial Law Attorney

Candidate for Hillsborough County Court Judge, Group 2

 This article highlights some of the criminal justice related bills that were signed into law by the governor during the 2017 legislative session. The summaries are taken from legislative analyses and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this article. Please read the legislation itself for a more in depth understanding of the bills.

 Sentencing for Capital Felonies, SB 280, signed 3/13/17, effective 3/13/17

  • SB 280 amends the death penalty sentencing statutes to require jury unanimity in death penalty sentencing procedures. In October 2016, the Florida Supreme Court determined in Hurst v. State that in order for the death penalty to be imposed the sentencing phase jury (if the jury was not waived) must vote unanimously for a death sentence. The Hurst v. State ruling was applied to the 2016 death penalty sentencing statutes challenged in Perry v. State. Amending ss. 921.141 and 921.142, F.S., to require unanimity in the jury vote for death will satisfy the constitutional requirements announced by the court in the Hurst and Perry

Public Records Exemption for Murder Witnesses, HB 111, signed 5/10/17, effective 7/1/17

  • HB 111 exempts from public records disclosure law the personal identifying information of a witness to a murder for two years from the date the murder is observed by the witness. However, a criminal justice agency may disclose the information to the parties in a pending criminal prosecution as required by law.

Law Enforcement Body Cameras, HB 305, signed 5/10/17, effective 7/1/17

  • HB 305 requires law enforcement agencies to establish policies and procedures authorizing an officer’s review of camera footage of an incident before writing a report or providing a statement.

Reduction of Criminal Penalties for Certain Acts, SB 608, died in Transportation Committee

  • SB 608 would have reduced the penalties numerous criminal acts. Notably, it would have
    • Reduced driver’s license suspension upon controlled substance possession conviction from 1 year to 6 months
    • Raised the threshold for Grand Theft from $300.00 to $1,000.00
    • Deleted the felony enhancement for three or more convictions for petit theft

Nonjudicial Expunction of Criminal History Records, SB 980, died in Criminal Justice

  • SB 980 would have provided for nonjudicial expunction of criminal history records upon application and approval by Florida Department of Law Enforcement for any case that did not result in a conviction, with some exceptions. There would not be any limit on the number of nonjudicial expunctions by a person. It also would have amended some current limitations on eligibility and procedures.

Public Records Exemption for Dismissed Domestic Violence Protective Injunctions, HB 239, signed 5/9/17, effective 7/1/17.

  • HB 239 exempts from public record requests a petition, and the contents thereof, for an injunction for protection against domestic violence, repeat violence, dating violence, sexual violence, stalking, or cyberstalking that is dismissed without a hearing, dismissed at an ex parte hearing due to failure to state a claim or lack of jurisdiction, or dismissed for any reason having to do with the sufficiency of the petition itself without an injunction being issued.