The lawsuit is in response to state and local officials’ failure to implement Florida’s 2018 Criminal Justice Data Transparency law
FT. LAUDERDALE, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida filed a lawsuit today requesting a Broward County state court to order state and local officials to comply with a statewide criminal justice data collection and reporting law. The lawsuit names Broward County’s Clerk of Court and Sheriff, as well as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) as defendants.
Originally passed by the Florida Legislature with only a single “nay” vote and signed into law by then-Gov. Rick Scott in 2018, the data collection law created a uniform model for criminal justice data collection by requiring state and local criminal justice agencies to report a substantial amount of complete, accurate, and timely data. For example, the law mandated these agencies to collect information from state attorneys and public defenders, such as the annual caseload, data related to any bail or bond or pretrial release determinations, information pertaining to court dates and sentencing, and information about victims, among other details. To date, all state and local criminal justice agencies identified in the lawsuit have failed to provide this data or access to this data.
“For more than three years, Floridians have waited on implementation of this data collection law that was supposed to provide much-needed transparency in the criminal justice system. Florida was supposed to lead the country in criminal justice data collection, but it has utterly failed,” said Jackie Azis, Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Florida. “It is important that this data be made available so we can more clearly see where racial bias and discrimination are in urgent need of redress. The proper implementation of this law could have a lasting impact on the transparency of Florida’s criminal justice system, and this lawsuit seeks to hold the responsible parties accountable.”
According to the law, state and local criminal agencies are required to report this data on a monthly basis. But many law enforcement agencies are either not collecting the data or not reporting it to FDLE, and FDLE is not publishing any information it has received. As a result, the system has failed to be “a model of uniform criminal justice data collection” and to make that information accessible to the public.
Prior to the lawsuit, the ACLU of Florida repeatedly requested records that would demonstrate compliance with the data collection law. The ACLU of Florida was informed that no such records exist and that the FDLE had not created the mandatory database. Under the Public Records Law, the lawsuit calls for the enforcement of the mandates outlined in the data collection law and requests access to all criminal justice data records that the law promised to make public.
“Lack of criminal justice data transparency in Florida means little to no education for the public on how criminal justice processes work,” said Benjamin Stevenson, Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Florida. “Without enough comprehensive data for Floridians and our policymakers, it will be extremely difficult to evaluate pathways to meaningful reform to our justice system.”
Read the full complaint here: https://www.aclufl.org/sites/default/files/fdle_data_complaint.pdf