Tom Lee navigates how to enforce constitutional change to criminal sentencing

Prison sentences change. But what’s that mean for those awaiting sentencing for crimes?

As Florida lawmakers look to implement a change to “The Savings Clause,” approved by voters in November, this proves a challenging question.

State Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican, filed legislation (SB 1656) tackling implementation.

“We don’t want to unknowingly unravel or automatically unravel cases pending in the system,” Lee said.

The bill goes before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday.

The complication comes in the details on Amendment 11. Florida used to always try crimes under statutes when laws were first written. But the change allows cases in the pipeline to be affected by changes in statute.

This could come up quickly.

Florida lawmakers may soon adjust its grand theft thresholds to account for inflation. Heck, Floridians may soon decriminalize marijuana possession altogether.

Anybody already sentenced and serving time for these crimes won’t be affected by any change in law.

Lee doesn’t want to change that either. If the Legislature or the voters legalize marijuana, that clearly affects prospective cases. That means people won’t be arrested and certainly won’t be sentenced under state law.


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