Bill allowing limited retroactivity of criminal sanction reductions passes the Legislature

first_img A bill allowing reductions in criminal sanctions to apply to those already charged but not sentenced — but not those already serving the sentence — has cleared the Legislature.Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, sponsor of SB 1656, said it is needed to carry out a section of Amendment 11 approved by voters last November. The change allowed reductions in criminal penalties and sentences to be applied to those already charged and/or convicted when the penalties were cut.However, Lee’s bill applies only to those who have been charged and not sentenced, although it would allow future legislatures, when reducing a penalty, to specify it applies to those already convicted.“The bill affords anyone charged with a crime but not yet sentenced by the court to automatically benefit from any reduction in criminal penalties or sentencing requirements brought about by our Legislature,” Lee said. “Nothing in the bill would preclude the Legislature from applying a reduction in criminal penalties or sentencing retroactively however, if the intent to do so is expressly stated in the legislation and signed into law.”In response to a question from Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, Lee said there was a constitutional issue in making retroactivity apply to existing convictions.“To apply law retroactively is arguable clemency. And this Legislature does not have the authority to do that. Clemency is vested in the Cabinet under the Constitution and I think this is as far as we can legally go without. . . running into a constitutional problem with the clemency provisions of Florida’s Constitution,” Lee said.The Senate bill did not go as far as Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, had hoped. Rouson was a member of the Constitution Revision Commission and sponsored the part of Amendment 11 that made reductions on penalties and sentence retroactive.Rouson introduced a bill that would have made future reductions in criminal penalties retroactive to all past convictions, but wound up working with Lee on his bill.“I believe this bill does stop a little short from what the voters intended,” he said. “I believe the voters wanted. . . a general presumption of retroactivity whenever we change a sentence. But this bill requires an additional expression of intent [by the Legislature] before it’s applied retroactively.”Rouson called it a “bridge” between not having any retroactivity and having new sentence and crime reduction apply to all current, future, and past convictions.The bill also included a savings clause to avoid triggering the common law doctrine of abatement which, according to the Attorney General’s Office, could lead to the dismissal of pending criminal charges if the Legislature passed a retroactive reduction in penalties.The bill passed the Senate 38-1 on April 26 and passed the House 110-4 on April 30. Bill allowing limited retroactivity of criminal sanction reductions passes the Legislature May 02, 2019 By Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular Newslast_img read more