Like the criminal justice system in other states, the laws in Florida change in part based on trends and changes in thinking among lawmakers and the general public. The 1990s, for example, saw a clamp down with increasingly harsh punishments for many offenses. While safety and security remain important, so too does protecting the rights of those accused of crimes.
According to the Florida Phoenix, changes to the laws in Florida give people accused or convicted of some more hope and opportunity to overcome their criminal pasts and reintroduce themselves into society. One of the changes prevents rejection of contractor, cosmetologist or barber applications for people with nonviolent criminal convictions more than five years old. This type of change directly addresses the need of people convicted of criminal offenses to support themselves and their families in an effort to get their lives on a more positive track.
Another step forward raises the threshold of theft offenses that result in felony charges, although not as much as hoped. Previously set at $300, the new limit of $750 is lower than the $1,000 sought and remains below the average of neighboring states.
Across the country, mandatory minimum sentences have come under scrutiny and some pushed for the elimination of these sentences in Florida. While this did not happen, the Florida Senate has moved Senate Bill 346 to Appropriations. This bill, if passed, gives courts the option to hand out sentences that deviate from any mandatory minimum incarceration time and mandatory fines. The intent is for SB346 to take effect in July of 2020.