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Impactful Changes: Florida's New Laws Taking Effect on October 1st

Several new laws passed during the 2023 legislative session in Florida are slated to come into effect this weekend. These laws, enacted during the session that concluded on May 5, will see the majority of their provisions taking effect on July 1, while some are scheduled to be enforced starting October 1. Below, we provide an overview of these newly enacted laws:

  1. Death Penalty for Child Rapes (HB 1297): Among the most contentious of the laws set to take effect is HB 1297, which permits the imposition of the death penalty for individuals found guilty of committing sexual assaults on children under the age of 12. This measure is likely to face legal challenges, as both the U.S. Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court have previously ruled against death sentences for rapists. Judges will retain the discretion to choose between the death penalty and life imprisonment. If fewer than eight jurors recommend the death penalty, judges will be obligated to impose life sentences.

  2. Local Ordinances Law (SB 170): SB 170 introduces provisions that could lead to increased legal challenges to local ordinances. Notably, the law mandates local governments to suspend ordinance enforcement during ongoing lawsuits and allows plaintiffs to seek up to $50,000 in attorney fees if courts determine that these ordinances are "arbitrary or unreasonable."

  3. Interference with Sports Events (HB 319): HB 319 establishes a maximum fine of $2,500 for individuals who disrupt athletic or artistic events or trespass onto fields or stages without authorization. Furthermore, this law prohibits individuals from profiting from such disruptions, particularly in the era of social media.

  4. Solicitation of Minors for Lewd Acts (HB 431): HB 431 classifies it as a third-degree felony for individuals aged 24 and above to solicit 16- or 17-year-olds in writing to engage in lewd or lascivious acts.

  5. Minors and Golf Carts (HB 949): HB 949 mandates that individuals under 18 must possess either a learner's permit or a driver's license to operate a golf cart on public roads in Florida. Previously, golf cart operators only needed to be at least 14 years old when using designated public roads for golf carts, with no driver's license requirement. Violations of this law will be treated as noncriminal traffic infractions, akin to moving violations.

  6. Penalties for Fentanyl Dealers (HB 1359): HB 1359 heightens penalties for individuals involved in fentanyl distribution and manufacturing. This includes imposing mandatory minimum sentences of 25 years and $1 million fines on adults who sell at least four grams of fentanyl to minors, often through products designed to resemble candy.

  7. Guns and Human Trafficking (HB 1465): HB 1465 enhances potential sentences for individuals possessing or discharging firearms in connection with human trafficking activities. Such offenders will be subject to Florida's "10-20-Life" mandatory minimum sentencing law.

  8. Expansion of Litter Law (HB 1367): HB 1367 broadens the scope of a litter law to prohibit the dumping of litter at water-control district properties or canal rights-of-ways without prior approval.

These new laws reflect significant changes in various aspects of Florida's legal landscape and are expected to have varying impacts on the state's residents and communities.

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