The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU of Florida) is committed to protecting and defending individual civil liberties and upholding the protections guaranteed by the United States and Florida Constitutions. To advance our goals, we will advocate in support of several priority issues before the state legislature and provide information and resources to state legislators and committee staff. We will lobby on behalf of legislation that furthers the public policy goals of the ACLU and will work tirelessly to defeat legislation that undermines or threatens individual civil liberties and civil rights.
Below are just a few of the several bills that have been filed this legislative session that we are actively supporting or opposing.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
The ACLU of Florida criminal justice priorities are grounded in the notion that all Floridians deserve equal treatment within Florida’s criminal justice system, that punishments should be fair and appropriate to the crime committed, that children should not be punished as adults, and that judges should have increased levels of discretion to consider individual and extenuating circumstances and not be bound by mandatory minimums. We are actively lobbying for comprehensive criminal justice reforms that assist in reducing mass incarceration, including, but not limited to: establishing a Criminal Justice Reform Task Force for the purpose of conducting a comprehensive review of the state’s criminal justice system, court system, and corrections system; reestablishing judicial oversight and approval of the prosecutor’s decision to charge a juvenile as an adult (e.g., reforming “direct file” laws); expanding the use of civil citations for both juvenile and adult populations; and reducing mandatory minimum sentences.
- Establishing a Florida Criminal Justice Reform Task Force
HB 387 / SB 458
Sponsors: Rep. Peters / Sen. Brandes
Summary: These bills would create a 28-member task force to study, evaluate, analyze, and undertake a comprehensive review of Florida’s adult criminal justice system to develop sentencing and corrections policy recommendations.
- Encouraging the Use of Adult Prearrest Diversion Programs/Civil Citations
HB 367 / SB 448
Sponsors: Rep. Plakon / Sen. Brandes
Summary: These bills would encourage local communities and public or private educational institutions to implement adult prearrest diversion programs for certain offenders. Law enforcement officers would be able to issue civil citations to adults that commit certain misdemeanors under specified circumstances. The civil citation program would require an adult who is issued a civil citation by a participating law enforcement agency to report for intake as required by the prearrest diversion program. No arrest record would be associated with recipients of civil citations.
- Providing for a Supervised Conditional Elderly Release Program for Aged Prison Inmates
HB 535 / SB 606
Sponsors: Rep. Edwards / Sen. Clemens
Summary: These bills would create a conditional elderly release program for qualified inmates over 65 years of age.
- Requiring Law Enforcement to Issue Civil Citations to Juveniles for Certain First-Time Misdemeanor Offenses
HB 205 / HB 213 / SB 196
Sponsors: Rep Ahern / Rep. Brown / Sen. Flores
Summary: These bills would require each county in Florida to have at least one youth civil citation program and for all youth to be served by the civil citation program or programs in each county. They would also require law enforcement to issue civil citation for first-time offenders that commit specified misdemeanor offense.
- Relating to Reforming the Prosecution of Children as Adults
Sponsor: Sen. Powell
Summary: This bill would reform the process by which children are prosecuted as adults (commonly referred to as “direct file”). It would require courts to consider a wide variety of factors such as the seriousness of the crime to the community, the youth’s involvement in the crime, the youth’s intellectual capacity, the youth’s maturity, and the child’s home and community environment. Additionally, this bill would remove some mandatory direct file laws and remove the ability to direct file youth of certain ages for certain offenses.
- Decreasing Penalties and Fees
Sponsor: Sen. Brandes
Summary: This bill would substantially decrease the number of actions that result in suspended driver’s licenses and decrease the financial burden of court fees and fines in certain instances.
The ACLU of Florida is committed to ensuring that no individual is discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Florida’s Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act do not adequately address LGBT discrimination. The ACLU of Florida supports comprehensive discrimination protections prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
- Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
HB 623/ SB 666
Reps. Diamond and Plasencia / Sen. Clemens
Summary: This bill, entitled the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations, and provides long-overdue protections to LGBT Floridians.
Immigrant rights are under attack and the ACLU of Florida will work tirelessly to defeat anti-immigrant legislation and ensure greater protections for immigrants.
- Prohibiting Sanctuary Cities and Requiring Local Governments to Enforce Federal Immigration Law
HB 697 / SB 786
Sponsors: Rep. Metz / Sen. Bean
Summary: This unconstitutional and anti-immigrant bill prohibits sanctuary cities and sanctuary policies and programs. Additionally, it unconstitutionally requires local governments to enforce federal immigration law. The ACLU strongly opposes any legislation that discriminates against immigrants.
- ACLU of Florida to Sheriffs: Don’t Allow State or Feds to Pressure You into Becoming Part of a Deportation Force – 3.29.2017
- Requiring Undocumented Immigrants to Face Harsher Sentences
HB 83 / SB 120
Sponsors: Rep. Eagle and Sen. Hutson
Summary: This legislation unfairly and unconstitutionally requires specified criminal offenses to be reclassified to next higher offense level if committed by an undocumented immigrant. The ACLU of Florida strongly opposes legislation that targets Florida’s immigrant population for more severe treatment.
- ACLU of Florida opposes SB 120_First Committee – 1.24.2017
- ACLU of Florida opposes SB 120_Second Committee – 2.21.2017
- ACLU of Florida opposes HB 83_First Committee – 3.14.2017
- ACLU of Florida opposes HB 83 – Second Committee – 3.27.17
The ability to decide whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term is essential to women’s equality, autonomy and dignity. The ACLU of Florida opposes legislative efforts that seek to erode a woman’s constitutional right to abortion and we will be vigilant in protecting a woman’s privacy and ability to decide what is right for her.
- Banning Abortions After 20 Weeks
HB 203 / SB 348
Sponsors: Reps. Gruters and Hahnfeldt / Sen. Steube
Summary: This legislation bans all abortions after 20 weeks, and does not contain any exceptions for rape or incest. Additionally, it provides for criminal penalties as well as civil and criminal remedies, and allows a cause of action to be brought by a spouse, parent, sibling or guardian, as well as the woman herself.
The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. The ACLU of Florida advocates to ensure a system of fair and open elections in which all qualified citizens — regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic status or any other category — may cast a vote and have it accurately counted. We will oppose any legislation that seeks to disenfranchise eligible voters or that makes it more difficult for voters to exercise their fundamental right to vote. Additionally, we will support bills that seek to ensure equal access to the polls and return the right to vote to individuals who have completed serving their sentence.