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‘Second-Look Act’ would examine the sentences of youthful offenders

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Sen. Jeff BrandesOne of the Florida Senate’s leading proponents of criminal justice reform is proposing a “Second-Look Act” that would reduce the sentences of felons who were 25 or younger when convicted.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg and chair of a criminal justice spending subcommittee, filed SB 1308 on December 20.

The measure would allow the relatively youthful offenders to apply for a review that could lead to a sentence reduction, or immediate suspension and release. The bill would require the Department of Corrections to notify qualifying offenders in writing within 18 months of their eligibility — or immediately for those who qualify when the bill would take effect, July 1, 2020.

Many restrictions would apply.

Murderers or people convicted of murder conspiracy, or felons serving life sentences, would not be eligible.

Offenders would be required to submit applications for review with the original sentencing court.

The review would consider such things as the offender’s level of maturity and rehabilitation, risk of re-offending, demonstration of sincere remorse, and participation in prison education programs.

Victims or their relatives would be permitted to attend the hearings and give statements. Or victim impact statements could be submitted in writing.

The proposed legislation would also require the court to consider mitigating factors that may have contributed to the offender’s commission of the crime, such as mental illness, or trauma from sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.

The bill had yet to receive committee references by December 31, and no House companion had been filed.

The measure is one of several criminal justice reforms that Brandes has been pushing in the past two years.

Another Brandes measure filed for the upcoming session would allow judges to bypass minimum mandatory sentences for certain drug trafficking offenses. SB 468 passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee by a 5-1 vote on November 5.

The measure’s next stop is before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, which Brandes chairs.

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