Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Florida Crime and Enforcement

Last Updated July 15, 2015: Florida has three classes of crimes split into different degrees of severity: felonies, misdemeanors and common law crimes.

Felonies, punishable by more than a year in prison, are split into 4 degrees:
  • First degree felonies punishable by up to five years or $5,000 in fines
  • Second degree felonies punishable by up to 15 years and $10,000 in fines.
  • Life felonies punishable by 40 years to life
  • Capital felonies punishable by either life imprisonment or death. Capital punishments include only murder, sexual battery and capital drug trafficking.
Misdemeanors are split into first degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and $500 in fines, and second degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year and $1,000 in fines.

A third class of crimes, common law crimes, including violations like contempt of court that are not specifically classified as felonies or misdemeanors in statute.
Felony sentences are determined by a combination of judicial discretion and a points system. The points system provides guidelines based on the type of crime committed and the circumstances surrounding the crime.

This process results in mandatory minimum sentences for many crimes. While judges can sometimes depart from these minimums, it is generally easier to order harsher punishments than more lenient ones, according to The Florida Bar Association.

The primary state agency that executes these laws is the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. FDLE is responsible for coordinating multijurisdictional investigations, conducting its own independent investigations, processing and analyzing forensic evidence and training and monitoring other law enforcement agencies.

For juvenile offenders, criminal cases are usually handled by the Department of Juvenile Justice, led by a governor appointed secretary. DJJ operates 21 detention centers and is responsible for a wide range of programs designed to redirect and rehabilitate delinquent youth.

Florida, however, allows prosecutors to decide whether to try most juveniles as adults, and the state now leads the nation in such cases, according to Human Rights Watch.

The country generally and Florida specifically has seen a steep drop in the past decade. FDLE estimates that from 1993 to 2013 both the rate and total number of crimes committed dropped by 55.8 and 37.4 percent, a decrease that was even more dramatic for violent crimes. Juvenile delinquency has also declined significantly and is at its lowest rate in 30 years.

This drop in crime coincided with a massive increase in incarceration caused by laws like Gov. Charlie Crist's "Truth In Sentencing" proposal, which mandates all offenders complete at least 85 percent of their sentence before they are eligible for release.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, however, rising incarceration accounted for 0 to 10 percent of the drop in crime, with factors like increased police presence, data driven enforcement techniques and social movements driving most of the change.

Many reform proposals have focused on reducing incarceration rates by expanding special court programs and introducing new sentencing guidelines.

In 2015, the Legislature passed SB 378, which gives police more authority to issue warnings to juveniles and encourages them to use civil citations instead of arrest and incarceration. Lawmakers also moved toward creating a regulatory system for police body cameras. That included passing several public record exemptions for body camera obtained recordings despite the misgivings of advocates like the ACLU, who said the exemptions undermined the accountability cameras were supposed to bring to police.

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"When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect."
~Adlia Stevenson U.S. Vice President (1893–1897) and Congressman (1879–1881)

On a Personal Note

Thanks for the opportunity to express my thoughts regarding the issue of citizens’ rights, particularly addressing certain sex offenders’ crimes that do not fit the devastating, inequitable and endless punishment given.

As you know, many young men and women lives across the nation are being destroyed by incarceration, life-time registry and restrictive laws that do more harm than good. For those individuals, there is no second chance.

Below is a personal letter to President Obama:
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“Dear President Obama,

I truly agree with your sentiments that individuals, such as ex-felons, should be able to receive a second chance at life. Since we all know that one can veer off that path of life and travel along rough, rocky terrain, sometimes running off and ending up in some ditch. We all have made our fill of mistakes and sometimes those held a costly consequence that changed life forever. So we lived through it, trying harder to make things right with family, friends and those around us, but what about those who aren’t able to make things right even if they tried…because they’re labeled as too dirty, a leper, a person who is rejected from society and home.

But what if they’re a seventeen year old and had sex with a fifteen year old, consensual at that? Or they’re a teen that had gotten so enraged after a breakup that he sent out naked pictures of his girlfriend on his cell phone or email? Or an individual urinates where someone just happens to see them?

All are wrong and a travesty but do they deserve the life of no second chance with a registry that ends all. They are labeled, no jobs, no where to live…they have been deemed a menace to society, a plague. These certain circumstances, and many other situations similar to these, I believe still deserve a second change.

Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

After my son’s early release and two years of prison, I thought I had handled that fact graciously knowing after serving his time he would be able to get that fresh start, that second chance. He was an exemplary inmate, GED, college courses and vocational classes. Little did I know that a second chance on the outside was the farthest from the truth? He now struggles and lives in a trailer park sharing a trailer with another and surrounded by others in the same rocking boat, one to float endlessly in shark infested waters. I see him little because of probation requirements (he couldn’t live with us because we were 800 feet near a school). My family is afraid of what would happen to them if he lived with them…vigilantism. My son has no other place to stay since others condemn him of his crime that is screamed from the highest rooftop. Sex offender, sex offender!

Not all sex offenders are pedophiles or predators but some are simply young kids that make one stupid and rash decision that eventually changes everything, and they have no idea what they’ve done until their life is never their own. Exactly, where is that second chance for those sex-offenders who are lumped together with pedophiles and predators? Now, it makes me sick to think of my son’s future and many like him that are on the registry and many with no second chance…ever. I am asking you as a mother and as another concerned citizen of the United States that these laws are looked at again and taken into serious consideration in what they are doing to the Constitution of the United States, not for sex offenders in general but the future rights of every citizen, before anymore are put into effect. They unjustly strip an offender of their rights and place them in a guillotine that can be easily set off by anyone and at anytime. Where is the second chance for ex-sex offenders in the present, pending and future laws?”
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What truly saddens me is the weakness and deterioration of what the sex offense issue is doing to our once, great nation. Across Europe, others are seeing the injustice and disregard of rights, but we ignore this problem and it makes me wonder where humanity is heading….

We have become a hysterical society in which our latest witch-hunt is a sex offender--no matter his/her crime.

Below is a email sent from a foreign advocate to a father of a sex offender:
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“The tragic story of your son's death is just so sad that it's difficult to explain how. It was very hard to read your letters. It seems almost unbelievable that this can take place in a democracy! From our point of view, there is no justice in this. Not in any way: not for you, your son, the former girl friend – or even the state.

It is an abusive legal system. It seems barbaric. And we are so very sorry that this takes place. That's why it's so important for us to try to neutralize the debate with this…, hopefully making some changes. ….. to show the every day life of the sex offenders, trying to show how they keep on being punished, even after served prison time…..But we will for sure tell the story of the injustice that your son has been exposed to.”
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I appreciate everyone's commitment and backing to protect everyone's civil rights, plainly as noted in the Constitution of the United States and is presupposed, giving ALL men are “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”