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Criminal Sentencing Changed—and Florida Prisoners Due to Be Released—Due To First Step Act


The criminal justice reform bill that was recently passed into law received widespread media attention, and for good reason: the bill significantly changes criminal charges and life-altering convictions for those charged with crimes, including those faced here in Florida. Perhaps most importantly, the law reduces mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, especially when it comes to certain drug crimes, and provides judges with more discretion when it comes to sentencing in general for nonviolent crimes.

In fact, prisoners have already started to be released under this “First Step Act.” Under the law, the Justice Department must now develop an algorithm to assess the recidivism risk of each prisoner, coming up with terms, early on, as to when each inmate will be eligible for prerelease custody or supervised release. In addition, a number of prisoners being held in Florida federal prisons who are serving decades-long sentences for drug offenses due to crack, are not on the priority list to be released soon.

What Does The New Law Do, Exactly?

The First Step Act makes significant changes when it comes to reforms to federal criminal sentencing, including but not limited to:

  • Cuts short a number of unduly long sentences for those convicted of nonviolent crimes by bringing those convicted for crack-cocaine offenses prior to the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act into line with those convicted after the Act. Specifically, those sentenced prior to 2010 can petition the court to review their case and have their sentences automatically brought into line with the changes implemented by the Act;
  • Limits mandatory minimum sentencing for use of a firearm during a drug or violent crime to only those who have been previously convicted for similar offenses (i.e. not for first-time offenders);
  • Reduces the three-strike penalty from life imprisonment to 25 years and the 20-year minimum sentence to 15 years, and only allows the three-strike penalty to be applied to offenders convicted of serious drug or violent felonies;
  • Allows judges to apply what’s known as the “safety valve” (an exception to mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders with little criminal history) if a defendant fully cooperates with law enforcement and has not threatened or used firearms or violence, or caused serious bodily injury or death; and
  • Creating programs aimed at reducing recidivism and increasing incentives to be implemented; programs that allow for prisoners to earn credits that will be used towards pre release custody; amongst other reforms.

 Contact Our Orlando Criminal Defense Attorneys to Find Out More

Whether you are facing felony charges or those for a misdemeanor, you need to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who not only regularly practices criminal defense locally, but knows how to use new sentencing laws to your benefit. Contact Greater Orlando Family Law today to find out about our excellent criminal defense services in this area.



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