With a flurry of signatures Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis approved at least seven pieces of legislation that will leave a mark on Florida’s legal system.
Here’s what you need to know:
From July 1, Florida Supreme Court justices with permanent homes outside Leon County will be able to request a district court of appeal courthouse, county courthouse or other facility as their official headquarters, under House Bill 5011. They’ll also be eligible for an allowance and travel reimbursement for each day or half day they’re at the Supreme Court building, at a rate decided by the chief justice.
The bill adds that a county doesn’t have to provide space in courthouses for a justice, but it can enter into an agreement with the Supreme Court over the use of its space — which can’t be leased using state funds.
After Oct. 1, 2019, SB 910 will open certain military veterans and court programs up to veterans who’ve been discharged for any reason, along with current and former U.S. Department of Defense contractors and military members of a foreign allied country.
Anyone who seeks medical attention for a minor after giving them alcohol or drugs will not be arrested, charged, prosecuted or penalized as long as they stay at the scene and cooperate with police and medical staff, according to CS/HB/595, which goes into effect Jul. 1.
Legal requirements for Florida businesses will shift in January 2020, under CS/HB 1009, which tacks on extra rules to ensure companies adhere to the Florida Business Corporation Act and Revised Limited Liability Company Act.
Thanks to CS/HB 49, state correctional facilities will give female prisoners health care products after July 1. These include feminine hygiene products, moisturizers, toothpaste, toothbrushes and others under the Dignity for Women Act. The new law also mandates that, unless there’s an emergency, male correctional staff can’t do pat-down or body cavity searches on female prisoners and can’t enter places where women are likely to be undressed, like bathrooms and showers. If they do, it will need to be documented.
Security background investigations will become mandatory for foreign-language court interpreters and mediators after July 1, according to CS/HB 7081, which means they’ll have to pay to have their fingerprints taken and sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The law also authorizes digital fingerprints and other electronic records of criminal judgments, and creates an exception to the rule that all communications between parties going through parenting coordination — a non-adversarial dispute resolution process in child custody cases — remain confidential. Any testimony or evidence that can be used to report, prove or disprove professional malpractice or misconduct will no longer stay confidential, and anyone appointed or employed by the Supreme Court to work on disciplinary proceedings against parenting coordinators won’t be liable for civil damages unless they act maliciously or in bad faith. Instead, the court will establish minimum standards and procedures to train parenting coordinators.
Notarized documents will go online with the passage of CS/HB 409, which also outlines new rules for password protection and tamper-evident technologies that the Department of State must adhere to by Jan. 1, 2020.
Effective immediately, CS/HB 1656 dictates that reenactments or changes to criminal statutes will operate ”prospectively” — meaning they won’t apply to final judgments based on crimes and penalties from before the statute was enacted, except in particular circumstances.
Effective immediately, CS/HB 91 lessens the burden of serving defendants with a complaint, taking away the need for a process server agent to indicate all the initial pleadings a person is being served with. It also removes the need for them to complete an affidavit listing the time, manner and place of service.
The law also clarifies procedure for filing a motion to intervene in a foreclosure case. Whereas interventions had to be done within 30 days, legislators tightened the language to stress that only a motion to intervene needs to be filed in that time, not a court order as well.