Does Florida law unfairly punish those with a criminal record?

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A criminal sentence or plea deal should be about more than just punishment. Any time served, including counseling or community service obligations, is an opportunity for defendants to acknowledge accountability and work toward reentering society.

Unfortunately, the balance between retribution and rehabilitation is not always achieved. A criminal record is one example of the lasting repercussions that may follow a conviction, potentially interfering with an individual’s ability to seek employment or housing.

Another long-term example is voting rights: Around 1.7 million people in Florida cannot vote because of a prior felony conviction, despite having served their sentences. If that number seems high, consider that Florida law categorizes many nonviolent criminal offenses as a felony, including trespassing on a construction site and driving with a revoked license.

One organization, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, is working to help criminal defendants better readjust to society. The group has gathered over 75,000 verified signatures in support of an amendment to the state constitution to restore voting rights to individuals with a nonviolent felony to their record.

As a law firm that has helped many individuals accused of criminal offenses, we understand the importance of upholding a defendant’s rights. We work to hold prosecutors to their burden of proof at trial, relying only on evidence that was lawfully obtained.

When preparing a criminal defense, our lawyers also keep the big picture in mind. One of the goals of the criminal justice system is to rehabilitate offenders. If incriminating evidence has been presented, our criminal defense lawyers will negotiate with prosecutors for the best outcome. For example, a plea deal that involves a lesser charge or a reduced sentence might achieve the balance between justice and rehabilitation.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Push to restore voting rights to ex-felons reaches Supreme Court,” Steven Lemongello, March 7, 2017

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