As we all know, the legal world is not stagnant; laws and procedures are constantly changing. These changes can often be challenging to understand and navigate. Still, staying informed is crucial—especially concerning significant updates to criminal laws.
Let's delve into some of the most noteworthy criminal justice-specific changes taking effect in Florida in 2024:
- Protection of Specified Personnel: Florida Statutes § 836.12 will encompass threats against judicial assistants, court employees, justices, and court clerks. Additionally, harassment against specified personnel with the intent to intimidate or coerce them to perform or refrain from performing official duties will be prohibited.
- Exploitation of Vulnerable Persons: Introducing Florida Statutes § 817.5695, this law will address the exploitation of individuals aged 65 or older. Exploitation occurs when the actor uses deception to obtain the property of such individuals or deprive them of their right to honest services. The severity of the offense varies based on the value of the property involved.
- Electronic Monitoring in School-Related Offenses: In cases involving crimes committed at schools or against students, courts can impose electronic monitoring as a pretrial release condition. Furthermore, the court may prohibit individuals from being within a specified distance of a school.
- Offenses Against Police Animals: Amendments to Florida Statutes § 843.01 address acts of violence against police canines or horses, elevating charges for intentional harm to these animals from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. Additionally, harassing, teasing, or interfering with a police animal now carries more severe penalties, as the offense has jumped from a second-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree. The statute also includes a provision allowing third-degree felony charges for knowingly resisting, obstructing, or opposing a police canine or horse working under the direction of an officer.
- Fentanyl-Related Offenses: The law amends Florida Statutes § 893.13, providing a 3-year mandatory prison sentence for individuals involved in selling, manufacturing, or delivering fentanyl. The law also introduces harsh penalties for selling fentanyl to minors, with a mandatory minimum term of 25 years and a fine of $1 million.
- Unlawful Dumping: The definitions of “dump” and “litter” under Florida Statutes § 403.413 have been updated. The meaning of "dump" now encompasses activities such as draining and discharging. "Litter" has been expanded to include personal belongings, prescription medications, household goods, storage structures, or parts from any motor vehicle. The law also specifies that unauthorized littering or dumping on water control district property is now considered illegal. Moreover, if littering or dumping is carried out from a boat, the owner, the operator, or both could face charges.
Staying abreast of these legal changes is crucial for criminal defense attorneys to provide effective representation and for individuals to understand prohibited behaviors and their consequences. Keeping informed facilitates compliance with the law and safeguards against unintended legal entanglements.