Residents of Florida will see 40 new laws go into effect on October 1, 2023. These new laws will have a major impact on Florida’s criminal justice system, housing laws, and important community. For example, HB 1297, would permit criminal justice judges to impose the death penalty for criminal convictions involving people found guilty of “rape of a child age 12 or under.” An example is SB 170, which make local governments liable for attorney fees when their local ordinances are found to be "arbitrary or unreasonable," and the local governments are sued and lose.

Here is a quick look at the new Florida laws which went into effect on October 1, 2023. 
Criminal justice

Protecting Specified Personnel: New Legislation Enhances Safeguards
In a move to strengthen protections for individuals in critical roles, Florida lawmakers have passed several bills aimed at deterring threats and intimidation against justices, judicial assistants, clerks of court, and their families. House Bill 67 and Senate Bill 174 specifically address this issue by prohibiting specified threats against these individuals and their family members, with intent to intimidate or coerce them to perform or refrain from performing their lawful duties.

Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons: New Laws Address Exploitation
Recognizing the heightened vulnerability of older adults, the legislature has enacted Senate Bill 232 and House Bill 603 to combat the exploitation of individuals aged 65 and over. These bills establish clear criteria for determining when exploitation has occurred, impose criminal penalties for violators, and empower those at immediate risk of exploitation to seek injunctive protection.

Ensuring Order at Sporting Events: New Legislation Prohibits Disruptive Behavior
In an effort to maintain order and safety at sporting and entertainment events, House Bill 319 and Senate Bill 764 introduce prohibitions against specific actions that disrupt the enjoyment of these events. These bills also prohibit profiting from such violations and provide for the seizure and forfeiture of assets associated with disruptive behavior.

Enhancing Electronic Monitoring of Offenders: New Laws Expand Pretrial and Post-Conviction Surveillance
House Bill 329 and Senate Bill 496 mandate that courts consider electronic monitoring and location restrictions as conditions of pretrial release, probation, or community control for individuals charged with certain offenses against schools or students. These measures aim to protect school communities and deter further offenses.

Updating Lien and Bond Laws: New Legislation Streamlines Procedures
House Bill 331 and Senate Bill 624 modernize lien and bond laws, addressing aspects such as notice requirements, notarization of forms, alternative forms of security, direct contracts, computation of time, extent of certain liens, requirements for notices of commencement, termination, and contest of lien, transfer of lien to security, service of documents, immunity to issuing authority, release of liens, and the authorization of attorney fees in certain actions.

Protecting Minors from Solicitation: New Law Prohibits Explicit Communications
House Bill 431 and Senate Bill 486 establish a new offense, prohibiting individuals aged 24 or older from soliciting minors aged 16 or 17 in writing to commit lewd or lascivious acts. This legislation aims to protect minors from predatory behavior and exploitation.

Enhancing Protections for Hospital Personnel: New Law Reclassifies Assault and Battery Offenses
House Bill 825 and Senate Bill 568 reclassify certain offenses committed against hospital personnel while they are engaged in the performance of their duties. This move reflects the heightened vulnerability of hospital workers and ensures that offenses against them are treated with appropriate severity.

Increasing Penalties for Offenses Against Animals: New Law Protects Police Horses and Dogs
House Bill 1047 strengthens protections for police horses and dogs by prohibiting violence against them under certain circumstances. It also increases the classification of specified criminal offenses committed against police canines, fire canines, SAR canines, or police horses.

Reforming Criminal Sentencing: New Laws Focus on Alternative Sanctions
House Bill 1263 introduces several changes to criminal sentencing, including eliminating points for violations of community sanctions that are resolved under alternative sanctioning programs. It also expands the use of alternative sanctioning programs for low-risk violations of probation, corrects provisions concerning limiting prison sentences for first-time revocations for low-risk violations, and provides structured sentences when technical violations result in prison terms.

Establishing Capital Punishment for Certain Child Sexual Offenders: New Law Expands Death Penalty Provisions
House Bill 1297 and Senate Bill 1342 introduce provisions for capital punishment for certain child sexual offenders. These bills establish separate death penalty proceedings in such cases, require findings and recommended sentences by a jury, provide for the imposition of the sentence of life imprisonment or death, and outline the requirements for a court order in support of a death sentence.

Enhancing Penalties for Fentanyl-Related Offenses: New Law Introduces Mandatory Minimums
House Bill 1359 and Senate Bill 1226 strengthen penalties for offenses involving fentanyl or fentanyl analogs.

A Compendium of Florida's Newly Implemented Laws
The state of Florida has recently enacted a series of laws encompassing a wide range of topics, from community affairs to transportation. This comprehensive overview highlights the key provisions of these new statutes, providing a clear understanding of their implications.

Community Affairs
SB 170/HB 1515: This legislation grants courts the authority to assess and award reasonable attorney fees, costs, and damages in specific civil actions against local governments. It also establishes procedures for continued meetings on proposed ordinances and resolutions for counties, mandating the suspension of ordinance enforcement if a legal challenge is filed.

Banking and Insurance
SB 180/HB 253: This law enhances regulations governing securities by empowering the Financial Services Commission to define "accredited investor" and revise requirements for securities registration. It also expands grounds for registration revocation, suspension, or denial, along with delineating continuing education requirements for investment advisors and their associated persons.

Children and Families
SB 7000/HB 7037: This legislation narrows the scope of public records exemptions for current and former public guardians, employees with fiduciary responsibility, and their families. It removes the scheduled repeal date of the exemption while defining relevant terms and establishing procedures for the expunction of human trafficking victim records.

Government Oversight and Operations
HB 535: This law authorizes travel expenses for law enforcement officers attending funerals of colleagues killed in the line of duty. It also increases the amount of funeral and burial expense reimbursement and allows administrative leave for such occasions.

SB 708/HB 743: This legislation revises the timeframe within which mortgagees or servicers must provide estoppel letters and mandates notice to mortgagors when such letters are requested. It also prohibits certain actions by mortgagees or servicers and requires prompt application of estoppel letter payments to unpaid loan balances.

HB 919/SB 1114: This law revises provisions governing homeowners' associations, including official records, fines, attorney fees, liens, and officer removal procedures. It prohibits commingling funds and mandates proper accounting and remittance within specified timeframes.

SB 838: This legislation dedicates the motorcycle safety education fee to a safety and education program administered by Florida not-for-profit corporations. It outlines program requirements, selection procedures, and contract specifications.

Navigating Florida's Roads with Golf Carts: New Regulations and Enhancements
Florida's vibrant communities and picturesque landscapes have long made it a haven for golf cart enthusiasts. However, the increasing popularity of golf carts on public roads has prompted the state legislature to implement new regulations to ensure safety and order.

HB 949: Golf Cart Operation: This law introduces stricter requirements for golf cart operation on certain roadways. Water control districts are now authorized to designate specific roads as suitable for golf cart usage, subject to county approval. These designated roads will be clearly marked to inform drivers of the permitted presence of golf carts.

To further enhance safety, the law prohibits individuals under 18 years of age from operating a golf cart on these designated roads unless they possess a valid learner's driver license or a valid driver license. Additionally, persons 18 years of age or older must carry a valid form of government-issued photographic identification while operating a golf cart on these designated roadways.

These new regulations aim to promote responsible golf cart usage and ensure the safety of all road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.

HB 965/SB 996: Driver License, Identification Card, and Motor Vehicle Registration: This legislation expands the scope of parties authorized to receive confidential crash reports, now including law enforcement agencies and their contracted service providers. This modification enhances access to crucial information for accident investigations and statistical analysis, potentially contributing to improved road safety measures.

Furthermore, the law introduces an option to make a voluntary contribution to Best Buddies International on the motor vehicle registration form, registration renewal form, and driver license or ID card application form. Best Buddies International is a non-profit organization dedicated to establishing friendships between individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their typically developing peers. This provision allows individuals to support the organization's mission while completing their motor vehicle and identification-related paperwork.

The law also clarifies the definitions of "control" and "motor vehicle dealer's leasing or rental affiliate," ensuring greater clarity and consistency in the interpretation of these terms within the state's motor vehicle regulations.

These enhancements to Florida's driver license, identification card, and motor vehicle registration processes demonstrate the state's commitment to improving road safety, supporting worthy causes, and maintaining clear legal definitions.