During the 2019 legislative session, Florida passed a number of criminal justice reforms that took effect during the first week of October. However, reform advocates call the bill a disappointment overall, even though the reforms exceed any made to the state’s justice system in the past.
One of the significant changes between the bill as originally drafted and the final version that passed related to drug trafficking charges. The original bill would have allowed judges to deviate from mandatory minimum sentencing requirements upon conviction. Additionally, the original bill would have allowed nonviolent offenders to reduce their sentences to 65% of time served when exhibiting good behavior.
According to reform advocates, some of the provisions that did make it into the final bill do not go far enough. For example, the bill raises the threshold at which theft becomes a felony from $300 to $750. However, surrounding states such as Georgia and Alabama have a threshold of $1,200, and Florida’s new $750 threshold still remains the lowest in the region. Reportedly, the Florida Retail Association and other groups persuaded the Legislature not to increase the threshold to $1,000 despite some lawmakers pushing for it.
Adult drug offense conviction no longer results in a one-year driver’s license revocation under the new law. Instead, such a conviction will result in license suspension for six months. Certain offenses by 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer automatically transfer to the adult criminal justice system. A nonviolent offense that took place over five years ago will no longer disqualify applicants from professional licenses in contracting or cosmetology. Those confused about how the new law affects them, particularly when facing criminal charges, may find it helpful to contact an attorney.