Criminal law is constantly changing. Approximately 161 new laws went into effect on July 1, 2016 signifying the start of Florida’s fiscal year. The potential consequences of new laws include confusion for the public and law enforcement officials.

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, contact the Sarasota criminal defenses attorneys of Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. at (941) 363-7900. We keep up with Florida’s changing laws so that we can provide you with the best defense possible.

A few of the new Florida laws are detailed below.

SB 228: Aggravated Assault Removed from Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Numerous gun-related crimes in Florida are on a mandatory minimum sentencing list known as 10-20-Life. This list was put into place decades ago when the state was experiencing a high amount of gun crime and has led to inequitable results. Some people have been sentenced to 20 years in prison without causing anyone else harm.

The new bill removed aggravated assault from this list. Judges and juries will now have discretion in sentencing defendants found guilty of this crime.

SB 636: Rape Kit Testing Reform

Florida is just one of many states that has a significant backlog of sexual assault evidence kits that need to be tested. Law enforcement agencies had no duty to turn them over for testing and many crime labs are understaffed.

SB 636 requires law enforcement agencies to submit all rape kits for processing within 30 days of beginning their investigation. The crime lab has 120 days to analyze the evidence provided in the kit. The point of the law is to ensure additional backlog isn’t created and that crucial evidence is provided to victims seeking justice.

In addition, six state crime labs will receive funding to begin processing old rape kits.

SB 1044: Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

Prior to this bill, it was possible for Florida police to take an individual’s property without charging that person with a crime. That means people could lose their cars, cash, or other valuables to the police without having done anything wrong. Attempting to get that property back involved a long and costly battle many people can’t afford.

Under SB 1044, the police must now arrest and charge someone with an actual crime before any property forfeiture proceedings, and they can only take property that would be described as contraband of that crime. The evidentiary standard for taking property was increased to beyond a reasonable doubt from clear and convincing evidence. The agency must also be more transparent and pay higher fees in relation to property forfeiture, which should discourage police from unnecessary taking defendant’s property.

Additionally, a minimum of 70 percent of the proceeds from seizures of motor vehicles driven by DUI offenders must be used on court costs, fees, and fines.

SB 1294: Enhanced Victim & Witness Protection

This bill increased the age of a child victim or witness who can testify through video or closed circuit TV from under 16 to under 18 years old. Now, more adolescents can testify safely and comfortably by recording what they have to say instead of appearing in court, which could be traumatizing. The court can now give orders of protection for individuals under 18 instead of under 16, enabling judges to protect more victims or witnesses from emotional or mental stress.

Contact the Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorneys at Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A.

If you’ve been charged with a crime and you think one of these or another new Florida law may affect your case, call the experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorneys of Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. at (941) 363-7900 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

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