Longtime and careful readers of this blog know our abhorrence for minimum mandatory prison sentences. Let us explain in detail why.
The State of Florida, unlike the feds, vests the entire power in seeking and imposing a minimum mandatory sentence in the prosecutor. This means that when faced with a decision about what is an appropriate sentence for a defendant who has pled guilty or been found guilty after a jury trial (which we have been told occurs, but we do not have much experience with this outcome) the legislature, in all their collective wisdom, has decided that the 25 year old prosecutor has more experience, wisdom, judgment, and fairness to decide the fate of the defendant and not the learned judge.
Minimum mandatory prison sentences are, in the final analysis, a slap in the face of the judiciary (which is not something we are usually opposed to, but politics makes strange bedfellows).
Which brings us to this new(ish) minimum mandatory, which is (sarcasm coming) well needed. Thank goodness the legislature decided to send these criminals to jail for ten days. In the middle of a pandemic, this is just what we need.
DRIVING WHILE LICENSED SUSPENDED 322.34 FSS (Florida's Stupid Statutes):
2. A person convicted of a third or subsequent conviction, except as provided in paragraph (c), must serve a minimum of 10 days in jail.
More than seven million Americans have lost their driver’s licenses for nonpayment of a ticket or fine. For many lower-income community members in 21st century America, a driver’s license is critical for everyday life tasks like getting to work, childcare or a child’s school, doctor’s appointments (especially vital for senior citizens), and transporting heavy groceries. Most people who are not able to afford to pay their fines, therefore, just keep driving. When a person driving with a suspended license is stopped by law enforcement, they typically get a ticket, may be subjected to more fines, and may even be arrested and end up in prison. Their inability to pay that original fine—their poverty—is, in effect, criminalized.
National awareness of governments’ use of fines and fees to extract revenue from low-income, predominantly African-American residents has risen substantially since the protests and violent conflict that followed the 2014 killing of Michael Brown by the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department. Here was an object lesson in state and local governmental power to perpetuate and criminalize poverty. After the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division investigated police and court practices in Ferguson, it released a report describing how citizens get trapped in a double helix of poverty and punishment. Initial fines and fees quickly and automatically trigger more monetary penalties, a suspended driver’s license (with more penalties imposed for driving on a suspended license), mandatory court appearances (with more penalties levied for missing those hearings), and, almost inevitably, criminal penalties. The City of Ferguson’s “focus on revenue rather than . . . public safety needs,” the report found, led to “procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm,” including the suspension of driver’s licenses for unpaid debts, followed oftentimes by an arrest for driving without a license
COMING SOON: Florida's New Lifetime Mandatory Sentence for medical marijuana- "getting sick is the least of your problems."
"The State of Florida, unlike the feds, vests the entire power in seeking and imposing a minimum mandatory sentence in the prosecutor." I see you don't practice in federal court.
What's needed is some sort of statewide group of folks interested in issues like these who can make the legislators who voted for this pay a price. The sponsors of this bill need to be called out in the minority community where they live, and the voters who pick them need to be aware of their actions.
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