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HB 7101 — Sentencing for Capital Felonies

by Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Reps. Trujillo, Spano, and others (CS/SB 7068 by Appropriations Committee and Criminal Justice Committee)

This summary is provided for information only and does not represent the opinion of any Senator, Senate Officer, or Senate Office.

Prepared by: Criminal Justice Committee (CJ)

The bill (Chapter 2016-13, L.O.F.) makes changes to Florida’s capital sentencing scheme.

On January 12, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court held Florida’s capital sentencing scheme unconstitutional in an eight to one opinion. (Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. _____ (2016), 2016 WL 112683, at *3) The Court ruled that “the Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death.” (Id. at *1) Several provisions contained within the bill are intended to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Specifically, the bill amends Florida’s capital sentencing scheme in the following ways:

  • The prosecutor is required to provide notice to the defendant and file notice with the court when the state is seeking the death penalty and the notice must contain a list of the aggravating factors the state intends to prove;
  • The jury is required to identify each aggravating factor found to exist by a unanimous vote in order for a defendant to be eligible for a sentence of death;
  • The jury is required to determine whether the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating circumstances in reaching its sentencing recommendation;
  • If at least ten of the twelve members of the jury determine that the defendant should be sentenced to death, the jury’s recommendation is a sentence of death;
  • The jury is required to recommend a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if fewer than ten jurors determined that the defendant should be sentenced to death;
  • The judge is permitted to impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole when the jury unanimously recommends a sentence of death; and
  • The judge is no longer permitted to “override” the jury’s recommendation of a sentence of life imprisonment by imposing a sentence of death.

These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on March 7, 2016.

Vote: Senate 35-5; House 93-20