Florida Death Penalty – House Bill 139

An important piece of Death Penalty legislation is being considered in Florida: House Bill 139.

This proposed legislation would require a unanimous jury vote to recommend a death sentence. Currently, a jury can recommend the death penalty in Florida by a vote of 7-5 (it is important to note that the Judge is the ultimate decision-maker who can choose to override the jury’s recommendation). The proposal would also require the judge to instruct jury that, in order for jury to recommend to court that death penalty be imposed, the jury must find that sufficient aggravating circumstances exist which outweigh any mitigating circumstances; that each aggravating circumstance must be proven beyond reasonable doubt by unanimous vote; and that the judge shall provide a special verdict form for each aggravating circumstance.

It would seem that this legislation is a long time coming. Of the 32 States that impose death penalty sentences, Florida is only 1 of 2 states in the union that does not require a unanimous decision (Alabama requires a 10-2 supermajority). Compare that to the fact that a unanimous jury verdict is required to convict a defendant of a misdemeanor offense, which carries with it a max punishment of only up to one year in jail. An interesting contradiction, to say the least.

For ease of reference, the specific language of the bill proposes:

Effective for an offense committed on or after July 1, 2015, an advisory sentence of death may be made only by a unanimous recommendation of the jury. The court shall instruct the jury that, in order for the jury to recommend to the court that the death penalty be imposed, the jury must find that sufficient aggravating circumstances exist which outweigh any mitigating circumstances found to exist. The court shall further instruct the jury that each aggravating circumstance used to support the jury’s recommendation of death must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and be made by a unanimous vote. The court shall provide a special verdict form for each aggravating circumstance found.

The full text of the proposed bill can be found here: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2015/0139/BillText/Filed/PDF

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Family law.

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Boating under the influence

A Florida State Representative, Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, has proposed a bill that would require the reporting of all convictions for boating under the influence to your driving record.

Read more here: http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/local/2015/01/16/boaters-hb-289-would-add-a-bui-to-your-drivers-license/21874551/

Boynton Beach Marijuana Update

The Boynton Beach City Commission voted on Tuesday to go forward with the October 21, 2014 hearing to discuss a possible moratorium on businesses in the city from producing or distributing medical marijuana.

The vote was apparently unanimous. After the October 21, 2014 hearing, the Boynton Beach City Commission will have to vote twice on a temporary ban of the businesses in the city from producing or distributing medical marijuana in order for the ban to become official.

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

Marijuana Ban in Boynton Beach?

The Boynton Beach City Commission is to vote Tuesday night on whether or not they should have a medical marijuana hearing on October 21, 2014. If the commission votes in favor of the hearing, Boynton Beach citizens would be able to discuss whether or not the city should ban businesses in the city from producing or distributing medical marijuana. A potential ban could last up to 1 year.

The ban would depend upon whether Amendment 2 to the November Ballot is passed. Presently, as of January 1, 2015, authorized Florida doctors may begin writing prescriptions for authorized strains of marijuana. However, the passage of Amendment 2 would allow for much broader medical use of marijuana. Amendment 2 proposes legalizing marijuana for a wide range of conditions, including but not limited to: cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or other conditions a doctor believes it likely that the benefit of the medical use of marijuana would outweigh the potential health risks. Additionally, the proposed amendment would allow for smoking marijuana, instead of solely permitting the ingestion of a cannabis oil. Thus, the concern in Boynton Beach is of the unforeseen impact that the opening of medical marijuana stores would have on the city.

It is important to note that Florida marijuana laws still do not authorize the private/recreational use or growing of marijuana. Possession of Marijuana (without a prescription) is prosecuted as a violation of Florida Statute 893.13; possession of under 20 grams of marijuana constitutes a misdemeanor in the state of Florida, punishable by up to 1 year in the county jail, possession of 25 pounds of marijuana, or 300 or more marijuana plants constitutes a first degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in Florida State Prison.

Drug charges are serious and are heavily prosecuted in the State of Florida. Anyone facing marijuana charges in Palm Beach County should contact a knowledgeable Palm Beach Criminal Defense attorney.

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

Legislative Update – License Suspension reduced for Drug Charges in Florida

As of July 1, 2014, Florida Statute 322.055 has been revised to reduce the period of driver license suspension from two (2) years to one (1) year in drug cases.

Before the statute change, Florida law required driver’s licenses to be suspended for two years for a drug conviction, including possession, sale, trafficking of a controlled substance. Many people did not realize that pleading guilty to a cocaine charge, for example, would not only cause a third degree felony conviction, but also a two year license suspension. Now, anyone convicted of drug charges is to have their license revoked for 1 year (or, if necessary, until the person is evaluated and completes a drug treatment and rehabilitation program). However, the court also has discretion to court to determine whether the defendant may apply for a restricted license (a license that is valid for business or employment purposes only). Further, after 6 months of the license being suspended, the driver may petition the DMV for restoration of the driving privilege on a restricted or unrestricted basis.

 

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.