WHAT COULD FLORIDA HB115 MEAN FOR CRIMINAL DEFENDANTS?
By Jonathan Blecher on April 20, 2023
In theory, the criminal justice system exists to protect the public. State statutes establish standards of behavior and prohibit certain actions, including most forms of interpersonal violence and the possession of many mind-altering substances. Even driving after a few too many beers can be enough of a reason for someone to spend weeks or longer in custody as they pose a risk to public safety, despite otherwise being a law-abiding adult.
Yet, the broader public safety argument, the theoretical foundation of the system, doesn’t always play out reasonably in practice. People arrested for relatively minor offenses, including driving under the influence (DUI) charges incurred after someone’s blood alcohol concentration spikes even one one-hundredth of a percent over the legal limit often worry about ending up in jail. A jail sentence, even a short one, can interrupt someone’s career and lead to major social stigma.
Although it has yet to receive a vote, House Bill 115 could potentially make major changes to the existing criminal code in Florida that might benefit those who have been accused of minor offenses and are risking consequences that may be disproportionate to the nature of the offense in question.
WHAT WOULD HB 115 DO?
If lawmakers vote on the bill and pass it, HB 115 could have a major impact for successful professionals who are facing minor charges. Some of the language used in current criminal justice laws would change. For example, the law would change to make rehabilitation as much of a focus as punishment during sentencing.
Non-violent offenses, like a DUI infraction, could therefore lead to much less serious sentences. If a judge believes that someone is truly a benefit to their community, then perhaps even the time served after the DUI arrest might be a sufficient sentence.
Judges would also have the opportunity to shorten the sentence assigned to someone based on outstanding deeds and good behavior while in state custody. In some cases, defendants would be able to serve less than 65% of the sentenced prison time, which is a drastic improvement from the 85% currently outlined in state law.
The goal is to prioritize having facilities and support for the incarceration of dangerous and violent offenders rather than those who are only guilty of technical infractions.
CHANGING CRIMINAL LAWS CAN INFLUENCE DEFENSE STRATEGY
Most professionals in Florida who are accused of a DUI can significantly benefit from looking into their different defense options with the assistance of a legal professional. From raising questions about the legality of a traffic stop to questioning chemical evidence, there are often many defense options available to defendants. Recognizing the strategies that might work and learning more about Florida’s criminal code and any upcoming changes to it can help those who need to mount a successful criminal defense after a recent arrest.