From the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Titusville on Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a series of “law and order” bills, emphasizing Florida’s commitment to keeping families safe. “They just want to be in a place that takes public safety seriously,” DeSantis said.
One of the bills signed by the governor enacts the death penalty for child rapists. Sexual battery against a child under 12 years of age is now considered a capital offense, potentially punishable by the death penalty.
Defendants can be sentenced to death if at least eight out of 12 jurors recommend it. Judges have the option to impose a sentence of life in prison instead. If fewer than eight jurors suggest the death penalty, the defendant will receive a life sentence.
The legislation, which cleared the Florida Senate 34-5 and the Florida House 95-14, was carried by Sen. Jonathan Martin (R-Fort Myers) and Rep. Jessica Baker (R-Jacksonville).
Despite existing legal precedent against executing rapists, such as the Kennedy v. Louisiana decision, Martin believes the new legislation has a chance due to the different makeup of the U.S. and Florida Supreme Courts.
Gov. DeSantis also signed HB 1359, which targets crimes related to fentanyl distribution. The bill makes it a first-degree felony, with a minimum mandatory imprisonment term of three years, to sell, manufacture, or deliver fentanyl with intent to sell.
Additionally, those 18 or older convicted of trafficking fentanyl or its analogues to a minor will face a mandatory minimum term of 25 years to life imprisonment.
The governor warned that fentanyl could be found in items such as candy, which is trafficked to children. “And if you’re messing with children, you’re going to have the book thrown at you 100%,” DeSantis said. The bill was carried by Rep. Shane Abbott (R-DeFuniak Springs) and Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills).
Another bill, HB 1627, aims to standardize and expand pretrial detention offenses. The law requires the Florida Supreme Court to develop a uniform statewide bond schedule and prohibits a person from being released prior to their first appearance if arrested for specific crimes.
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DeSantis said this legislation will prevent “soft on crime” judges from “unnecessarily” releasing people. The bill was carried by Rep. Sam Garrison (R-Fleming Island).