New Florida Laws Now in Effect – Fall 2023

New Florida Laws Now in Effect

By Brian Coughlin, Bedell Firm Director

A number of bills became new laws in Florida this October. This year’s legislative session was packed with proposals from lawmakers. Catch up on a few notable laws that are now in effect.

HB 1297: Allows for death sentences for certain child sexual offenders.

House Bill 1297, signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on May 2, addresses child sexual offenses by allowing judges to impose the death penalty for individuals convicted of raping a child aged 12 or under. This new legislation underscores the state’s commitment to addressing severe crimes against children. 

The law introduces a separate sentencing procedure, requiring a jury vote of at least 8-4 to recommend a death sentence for sexual battery on a child under 12. It outlines specific criteria for the jury’s decision-making process, ensuring a thorough and careful consideration of aggravating factors. Additionally, the law grants the State the right to appeal if the circuit court does not adhere to the established sentencing procedures, emphasizing the seriousness of the matter.

HB 1359: Provides criminal penalties and a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for selling or distributing fentanyl.

HB 1359 imposes criminal penalties and mandatory minimum prison terms for those involved in selling or distributing fentanyl, emphasizing the state’s commitment to combating the dangers of fentanyl trafficking. Signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, the bill addresses the rise of rainbow fentanyl, a variation designed to resemble harmless products. 

The legislation toughens penalties for selling, manufacturing, or delivering fentanyl with specific characteristics, including those mimicking food items, featuring trademarks, resembling candy, or displaying cartoons. The new law aims to deter the illegal distribution of fentanyl and protect residents from the severe consequences of opioid misuse.

HB 1375: Prohibits battery by strangulation.

Florida’s House Bill 1375, led by Rep. Jessica Baker, unanimously passed in the House. This legislation targets battery by strangulation, aiming to reclassify it as a third-degree felony. It can potentially lead to a five-year prison term for those convicted, especially if it causes “great bodily harm.” 

The current law designates strangulation as a third-degree felony only when there is a “domestic or dating relationship” between the victim and perpetrator. HB 1375 broadens this scope, making any strangulation of a victim, regardless of relationship, a third-degree felony.

About Brian T. Coughlin

Brian Coughlin is a director at Bedell. He is a former chairperson of The Florida Bar Professional Ethics Committee and a current member of the Board of Governors of the Jacksonville Bar Association. His practice focuses on matters of criminal justice. He is ranked by his peers at the highest level of professional excellence for legal knowledge, communication skills, and ethical standards.

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