This year’s legislative session in Florida was packed with proposals from lawmakers.
In July, more than 200 new bills became law.
This article will catch you up on four notable legislative changes that are now in effect.
HB 667: Deposing victimized children
This bill was created to protect children under the age of 16 who are alleged victims of sex crimes.
This legislation places restrictions on deposing alleged victims during a criminal prosecution.
A court hearing is now mandatory to depose children under age 16 to ensure it is appropriate, and the bill has a “presumption that the taking of the victim’s deposition is not appropriate” for children under 12.
Opponents said this bill may be more likely to force children to testify during a trial, which can be even more traumatizing for victims.
HB 365: Capital drug crimes
This legislation imposes steeper penalties for the distribution of illegal drugs that result in overdoses.
State statute already provided that someone can be charged for murder if a drug they distributed was determined the “proximate cause” of death.
With HB 365, that standard has been lowered.
Now, the drug traced back need only be determined to be a “substantial factor” in a fatal overdose.
The bill includes a clause to protect those who “act in good faith” and seek medical assistance for someone experiencing an overdose.
Under Florida’s “911 Good Samaritan Law,” they can receive immunity for possession of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia.
HB 543: Firearms and permitless carry
Under HB 543, no permit, training or safety course is required to carry a concealed firearm in Florida, as long as it is owned legally.
Only a valid ID is needed to carry a concealed weapon under the new law.
And the punishment for not having ID is a mere $25 fine.
There still are laws and restrictions in place for an individual to legally purchase a firearm in Florida.
Existing eligibility criteria, including being a U.S. citizen over age 21, still stand. During purchase, federal background checks are still required.
In addition, HB 543 does not affect the list of banned areas for carrying a concealed firearm.
Individuals cannot carry a firearm in prohibited locations such as schools, jails, polling places or anywhere prohibited by federal law.
HB 837: Tort reform
This tort reform bill makes a wide range of changes to Florida’s civil justice system, including to the comparative negligence system.
Florida has enacted a “modified” comparative negligence system, where a plaintiff collects no damages from any defendant if a jury finds him more than 50% at fault.
The new standard does not apply to medical malpractice cases.
This major shift may prompt personal injury attorneys to sue more parties in order to drive the plaintiff’s share of responsibility below 50%.
HB 837 also changed what constitutes admissible evidence in establishing past, present and future medical expenses.
Now, the admissibility of evidence at trial of past medical treatment is limited to the “amount actually paid, regardless of the source of payment.”
The new tort law, which went into effect immediately upon being signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 24, 2023, also reduced Florida’s statute of limitations for general negligence suits from four years to two years from the injury date.
The shortened statute of limitations applies to negligence actions that accrue after that date.
Brian Coughlin is a director at Bedell Firm. His practice focuses on matters of criminal justice.