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On June 30, 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a police reform bill into law, establishing standards for police conduct in order to promote “effective policing” and hold law enforcement officials and correctional staff accountable in Florida. Additionally, the law also bans the arrest of minors under seven (7) years old for non-violent crimes. 

Hiring Law Enforcement Officials 

Under House Bill 7051, anyone who applies to work as a police officer, correctional officer, or correctional probation officer must provide an affidavit, which discloses if they are involved in a pending local, state, or federal investigation for either administrative, civil, or criminal wrongdoing. This affidavit must also include information on whether a person resigned or was otherwise separated from a previous criminal justice employer while under investigation. 

In addition, acts and reasons for any prior separations from private and public entities are now included in pre-employment background checks. Each employing agency must keep officer employment records for at least five years following resignation, termination, or retirement. 

Revised Basic Skills Course for Certification 

The Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission is tasked to create standards for instructing officers on use of force, which will be included in every basic skills course required to earn an officer’s initial certification as a police officer, correctional officer, or correctional probation officer, starting July 1, 2023. 

The standards must include the following: 

  • Proportional use of force 

  • De-escalation techniques and other alternatives to using of force 

  • Limits on the authorized use of chokeholds 

  • Require on-duty officers to intervene another officer who engages or attempts to engage in excessive use of force 

  • Require officers to render medical assistance following use of force if the person being arrested is injured or otherwise requires medical attention 

  • Learn how to recognize whether a person suffers from mental illness or substance abuse disorder and provide the proper responses for such situations 

Under the new law, a chokehold is defined as “the intentional and prolonged application of force to the throat, windpipe, or airway of another person that prevents the intake of air. The term does not include any hold involving contact with another person’s neck that is not intended to prevent the intake of air.” 

Furthermore, excessive force is now defined as “use of force that exceeds the degree of force permitted by law, policy, or the observing officer’s employing agency.” 

Use of Force Investigations 

When an officer’s use of force causes death or when discharging of a firearm results in an injury or death, the new law includes minimum policies that law enforcement agencies must follow when conducting use-of-force investigations, which includes independent reviews by agencies and officers not involved in the incident. 

Starting July 1, 2022, police departments are required to submit quarterly reports to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FLDE) with use-of-force date involving serious injury, death, or discharge of a firearm. 

Arresting Minors 

Lastly, children younger than seven years of age cannot be arrested, charged, or otherwise adjudicated for a juvenile or criminal offense, unless the crime is a forcible felony. This law is effective on July 1, 2021. 

Facing criminal charges in Miami? Contact the Law Office of Armando J. Hernandez, P.A. today at (305) 400-0074 for a free case review. Get a former prosecutor with more than 19 years of trial-tested experience on your side! 

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