What Is the Florida First Step Act?

Senate Bill 642, also known as the “Florida First Step Act” is gaining more recognition in the press after federal reforms that were supported by both parties and backed by President Trump were passed last year. The bill, which is an effort to cobble together the best ideas brought forth in federal act plus ideas put forth by state legislators from Florida and beyond, hopes to correct a criminal justice system that just seems to recycle inmates.

The backbone of SB 642 is aimed at addressing post-prison life to reduce recidivism in the system. The hope is that these measures will reduce crime, probation costs, a create a “more efficient” and “more effective” criminal justice system.

Tough On Crime Laws

It is widely acknowledged that “tough on crime” policies have bloated Florida’s criminal justice system. Over the last two decades, the prison population has risen 29% and costs associated with the Florida criminal justice system have risen 60%. Florida now has the third most inmates in the United States and, as of 2016, was rated 11th overall in prisoners per capita. Florida currently has around 150,000 inmates.

The bill hopes to rewrite at least some of the Florida penal code. Florida, which has a number of crimes that require mandatory minimum sentences, will take a look at how those mandatory minimums are affecting costs to taxpayers and to what extent they are effective at reducing crime.

In other cases, the bill will raise the threshold for certain crimes. For instance, felony theft would require a theft of more than $1500 as opposed to $300.

The state senator responsible for introducing the bill, Jeff Brandes, has proposed a number of bills that would also impact how Florida sentences those accused of crimes. These include non-violent drug offenders. SB 400, also proposed by Brandes, would give judges discretion on how they manage those accused of drug possession.

The legislation would also introduce a risk-assessment metric for those out on bail or bond. The legislation seeks to reduce the number of those who are held in jail while they are awaiting trial or sentencing.

While there’s plenty of reason to hope that these measures can bring much-needed change to Florida’s criminal justice system, the bills will find detractors who believe that a hardline approach to crime reduces crime. Despite mounting evidence that those measures backfire costing taxpayers more money, there will be those that say public safety will suffer as a result of these policies. Enthusiasm for the bill relies on voters seeing the measures for the rehabilitative and cost-saving virtues.

Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve been charged with a crime, the Skier Law Firm P.A. can help you defend yourself from the charges in West Palm Beach. With years of experiencing defending clients from routine DUIs, murder, and white-collar crimes, our attorneys provide top-quality defense. Give us a call or talk to us online and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.

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