Florida Legislative Session Review – Part IV: Public Safety & Judicial System

A number of bills are filed every year that deal with law enforcement, public safety, and Florida’s court system.

Law Enforcement & First Responders

SB 1030 increases court cost assessed against anyone convicted of violating state penal or criminal statute or convicted of violating municipal or county ordinance, requires defendants to pay all outstanding criminal costs and fines prior to court entering order to seal or expunge criminal history records and amends provisions regarding the civil penalties for noncriminal traffic and boating infractions. Passed 39-0 and 117-0.

SB 1792 includes vehicles operated by the Department of Corrections within term “authorized emergency vehicles” for purposes of Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law and authorizes the department to operate vehicles that have emergency lights and sirens. Passed 37-1 and 115-0.

SB 1088 creates a regional pool of attorneys, from which the court can appoint to represent persons in certain cases in which public defender is unable to provide representation. Passed 39-0 and 119-0.

SB 1604 revises the criteria for designation as sexual predator, requires predators to register with Department of Law Enforcement through the sheriff’s office in the county where they were designated as predator and allows certain sexual predators offenders to petition for removal of the registration requirement. Passed 39-0 and 118-0.

SB 746 provides standards for determining benefits for employment-related accidents and injuries of “first responders,” which generally increase the amount and likelihood of eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. Many of these provisions have the effect of reversing the application to first responders of benefit changes to the workers’ compensation law enacted in 2003. Passed 40-0 and 109-2.

HB 55 defines the terms “domestic violence,” “employee,” “employer,” “family or household member,” and “victim”, requires employers permit an employee to take leave from work to undertake activities resulting from an act of said violence and requires employers to keep information regarding employee’s leave confidential. Passed 117-0 and 39-0.

HB 143 requires the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission to adopt rules for implementation of federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004. Passed 114-0 and 38-0.

HB 123 requires all identifiable witnesses to a complaint against a law enforcement or correctional officer be interviewed, whenever possible, prior to the investigative interview of the accused officer and requires the political subdivision that initiates or receives the complaint against a law enforcement officer or correctional officer to forward the complaint to the officer’s employer within a specified period. Passed 118-0 and 39-0.

HB 723 requires law enforcement or correctional agency personnel who are investigating a complaint against an officer and who are preparing an investigative report or summary regarding such complaint to verify that the contents of the report are true and accurate based upon the
officer’s information and belief. Passed 113-0 and 39-0.

HB 547 requires a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or correctional probation officer to successfully pass a physical examination in order to presumptively claim that his or her tuberculosis, heart disease, or hypertension resulting in total or partial disability or death was accidental and suffered in the line of duty. It also authorizes an agency that employs law enforcement personnel to establish standards regarding the use of tobacco. Passed 114-0 and 36-0.

HB 121 incorporates the definition of “auxiliary law enforcement officer” and authorizes director of the Florida Highway Patrol to issue certain items to retiring auxiliary officer. Passed 112-0 and 33-0.

HB 1003 allows law enforcement officers to drive golf carts on surface roads while on active duty for official business. Passed 112-0 and 40-0.

HB 1 creates the Drug Paraphernalia Abatement Task Force and the Task Force for the Remediation of Illicit Drug Labs within Executive Office of the Governor. Passed 110-0 and 39-0.

Crime & Punishment

SB 1004 is the Cybercimes Against Children Act of 2007, which provides jurisdiction to Statewide Prosecutor Office over child pornography offenses facilitated by or connected to the use of the Internet. This was a priority for Attorney General Bill McCollum. Passed 39-0 and 113-0.

SB 146 is the Anti-Murder Act. It was Governor Charlie Crist’s top priority for the Legislative session and the bill he wanted on his desk first. The bill prohibits a court from allowing a violent offender to be out on bail when charged with violating probation or community control requirements. The bill was prompted by three prominent cases in recent years where a violent offender on probation, while out on bail after being charged with a violating the terms of probation, committed a heinous murder. Passed 40-0 and 116-0.

HB 339 redefines the term “law enforcement officer” to include federal law enforcement officer for enhanced penalties imposed for assault or battery of law enforcement officer and adds federal law enforcement officer to the offense of false impersonation of an officer. Passed 112-0 and 40-0.

SB 2162 authorizes those certain counties to utilize surcharge revenue exceeding the debt service on bonds prior to 2003 used to build state court facilities. It also authorizes the continued collection of a $15 surcharge assessed by certain local governments for traffic infractions and violations which was scheduled for repeal on September 30, 2007, and authorizes the assessment of up to $3 in court costs, to be used to operate and administer Teen Courts. Passed 37-0 and 118-0.

HB 409 prohibits the suspending, deferring, or withholding adjudication of guilt or imposition of sentence if the offense is attempted felony murder committed against law enforcement officer, correctional officer, state attorney, assistant state attorney, justice, or judge. Passed 114-0 and 40-0.

SB 2866 authorizes employees of the state’s civil commitment center for sexually violent predators to use non-lethal force on persons committed to the program under certain circumstances and requires information be provided to a multidisciplinary team to evaluate a person for the Sexually Violent Predator Program (SVPP) include any documents indicating whether the person’s crimes included sexual acts or were sexually motivated. Passed 39-0 and 117-0.

HB 989 provides that alleged victims of sexual offenses shall not be required to submit to polygraph or other truth-telling examination as condition of proceeding with investigation of such offense and that refusal of alleged victim to submit to such examination does not preclude investigation, charging, or prosecution of alleged offense. The bill also allows for the presence of victim advocates during forensic medical examinations and requires HIV testing of certain defendants within a specified period. Passed 113-0 and 38-0.

HB 25 requires the court to sentence the driver of a vehicle to the minimum term of imprisonment if convicted of both driving under the influence and leaving the scene of a crash resulting in death. The court must also impose the minimum term of imprisonment if the offender is convicted of DUI manslaughter. Passed 115-0 and 35-0.

HB 1155 prohibits the sale, manufacture, alteration, delivery, uttering, or possession of counterfeit-resistant prescription blanks for controlled substances with intent to injure or defraud and specifies circumstances under which pharmacist who dispenses controlled substances by mail is exempt from certain requirements governing patient identification. Passed 117-0 and 39-0.

HB 1441 Creates criminal offense of female genital mutilation. Passed 115-0 and 38-0.

HB 449 provides enhanced penalties for specified burglaries and thefts involving authorized emergency vehicles and for specified burglaries and thefts committed during a state of emergency and facilitated by conditions arising from emergency (looting). Passed 113-0 and 37-0.

SB 1644 provides enhanced penalties for theft exceeding $3,000 for persons who individually, or in concert with others, coordinate activities of one or more persons in committing theft. Passed 40-0 and 117-0.

HB 9 provides that property that is owned or leased by railroad or railway company does not have to satisfy the definition of “posted land” for tresspassing. Passed 113-2 and 20-19.

HB 1185 changes definitions for tresspassing on a construction site. Passed 117-0 and 39-0.

Civil Court Issues

SB 978 revises the provisions regarding the presentation of testimony and evidence in court-ordered non-binding arbitration proceedings. Passed 39-0 and 114-1.

SB 174 prohibits deputy clerks of court or deputy sheriffs who are employed full time from practicing law. Passed 40-0 and 116-0.

SB 1770 authorizes the courts to order electronic communication between parent and child as part of child custody visitation issues. Passed 35-0 and 118-0.

HB 77 establishes the “Keeping Children Safe Act,” which makes it harder for a parent or caregiver seeking visitation or other contact with a child is the subject of a report to the child abuse hotline alleging sexual abuse, has been found guilty or has entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to certain specified crimes, or has been determined by a court to be a sexual predator as defined in statute. Passed 114-0 and 39-0.

SB 448 clarifies the status, regarding benefits, of county-funded personnel who assist in the
operation of the circuit court. Passed 39-0 and 118-0.

HB 229 authorizes the Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Office to create a direct support organization to conduct programs and activities, raise funds, and make expenditures that directly or indirectly benefit the Guardian Ad Litem Office. Passed 117-0 and 36-0.

HB 7111 revises the provisions relating to criminal history record checks for professional and nonprofessional guardians. Passed 114-0 and 39-0.

Schedule of Review Posts:

Mon May 21: Public Records/Public Meetings
Thu May 24: Education
Tue May 29: Environment, Growth Management, & Natural Resources
Mon Jun 4: Legal System & Public Safety
Mon Jun 18: Veterans/Military Affairs
Tue Jun 19: Elections
Wed Jun 20: Transportation & Economic Development
Fri Jun 22: Health Care
Mon Jun 25: Insurance (excluding property)
Wed Jun 27: Human & Social Services
Fri Jun 29: Gambling & General Government
Mon Jul 2: Property Insurance & Property Taxes (including the special session legislation)
Tue Jul 3: Miscellaneous Bills not included in previous reviews

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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