A new law that could lead to imposing the death penalty on people who rape children under age 12 will take effect Sunday, along with other laws passed during the 2023 legislative session.
Other measures taking effect could lead to putting local governments on the hook for attorney fees when ordinances are deemed “arbitrary or unreasonable;” increase penalties on fans who interfere with sporting events; and require teens to at least have learner’s permits to drive golf carts on public roads.
The laws passed during the legislative session that ended May 5. Most legislation, including a record $117 billion state budget, went into effect on July 1, the start of the fiscal year.
The most controversial of the laws taking effect Sunday would allow the death penalty for people who commit sexual batteries on children under age 12. The measure (HB 1297) likely will draw legal challenges, as U.S. Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court precedents have barred death sentences for rapists.
During a May 1 bill-signing event in Brevard County, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the measure is “for the protection of children.”
“Unfortunately, in our society, we have very heinous sex crimes that are committed against children under the age of 12 years old,” DeSantis said. “These are really the worst of the worst. The perpetrators of these crimes are often serial offenders.”
Judges would have discretion to impose the death penalty or sentence defendants to life in prison. If fewer than eight jurors recommend death, judges would have to impose life sentences.