Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

by
In this advisory opinion, the Supreme Court answered a question asked by Governor Ron DeSantis regarding the interpretation of a portion of the Florida Constitution affecting his executive powers and duties by stating that it is in the Court's opinion that the phrase "all terms of sentence," as used in article VI, section 4, has an ordinary meaning that the voters would have understood to refer not only to durational periods but also to all legal financial obligations (LFOs) imposed in conjunction with an adjudication of guilt. Specifically, the Governor requested advice regarding the meaning of language added to Fla. Const. art. VI, 4 by the approval of an initiative petition, commonly referred to as Amendment 4, that restored the voting rights of certain convicted felons "upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation." The Supreme Court answered that the phrase "all terms of sentence" encompasses not just durational periods but also all LFOs - fines, restitution, costs, and fees - imposed in conjunction with an adjudication of guilt. View "Advisory Opinion to Governor re Implementation of Amendment 4, The Voting Restoration Amendment" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant's third amended motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and sentence of death filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 and denied Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This appeal concerned Appellant's second amended motion for postconviction relief. The postconviction court noted that Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase pursuant to Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016) but denied the guilt-phase claims. The majority of the claims presented in Appellant's appeal alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Supreme Court denied the claims and affirmed the order of the postconviction court. The Court also denied Appellant's petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that Appellant's claim that comments made by the prosecutor tapped into racial stereotypes was procedurally barred and that Appellant's claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel also failed. View "Martin v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court rendered this advisory opinion to address the issue of the validity of a citizen initiative petition circulated pursuant to Fla. Const. art. XI, 3, concluding that the proposed initiative should not be placed on the ballot. The initiative at issue was sponsored by Citizens for Energy Choices and titled "Right to Competitive Energy Market for Customers of Investor-Owned Utilities; Allowing Energy Choice." In opposing the initiative, the Attorney General argued that the ballot title and summary failed adequately to inform the voters of "the true meaning and ramifications of the proposed amendment." Specifically at issue was whether the ballot summary affirmatively misled voters to believe that the initiative grants a right to sell electricity. The Supreme Court concluded that the ballot summary was affirmatively misleading and thus did not comply with Fla. Stat. 101.161(1). View "Advisory Opinion to the Attorney General re Right to Competitive Energy Market for Customers of Investor-Owned Utilities; Allowing Energy Choice" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruling that a peremptory strike was constitutionally impermissible because it was based on the prospective juror's religion, holding that the issue of the constitutionality of a religion-based strike was not properly preserved in the trial court and that the district court erred in reversing on the basis of an unpreserved argument. The district court concluded that the trial court erred in allowing the peremptory strike of the prospective juror at issue, basing its decision in part on its conclusion that the strike involved an unconstitutional religious test. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that Defendant's religion-based objection to the strike was not properly preserved. View "State v. Pacchiana" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court approved the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeal affirming the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion for discharge for expiration of speedy trial, holding that the Fifth District properly applied Melton v. State, 75 So. 2d 291 (Fla. 1954), and that an investigatory detention does not constitute an arrest for purposes of starting the speedy trial period in Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.191. At issue was how the term "arrest" should be defined for purposes of starting the speedy trial period set forth in Rule 3.191, Florida's procedural speedy trial rule. The Supreme Court adhered to Griffin v. State, 474 So. 2d 777 (Fla. 1985), which adopted the definition of arrest from Melton for purposes of determining when the speedy trial period begins, and held that the Fifth District did not err in determining that there was no speedy trial violation in this case. View "Davis v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Supreme Court answered a question certified to it by the First District Court of Appeal by holding that an inquiry under Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975), is not invalid if the court does not explicitly inquire as to the defendant's age, experience, and understanding of the rules of criminal procedure. Petitioner was charged with drug-related offenses and allegedly violated his probation. Petitioner sought to waive his right to counsel. The trial judge discharged Petitioner's attorney, and Petitioner was found guilty of both charges. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the trial court conducted an insufficient Faretta colloquy because the court failed to ask questions about, inter alia, his age, health, and education. The First District held that the Faretta inquiry was adequate. The Supreme Court approved the holding below, holding that a Faretta colloquy is not rendered inadequate by the trial court's failure to inquire as to the defendant's age, experience, and understanding of the rules of criminal procedure. View "Hooks v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Supreme Court approved a proposed amendment titled "Raising Florida's Minimum Wage" for placement on the ballot but refused to review a financial impact statement prepared by the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC), holding that this Court lacked jurisdiction to do so. The Attorney General of Florida petitioned the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on the validity of a proposed citizen initiative amendment to the Florida Constitution requesting review of the compliance of the proposed amendment with constitutional and statutory requirements. The Attorney General further requested an opinion addressing the compliance of the corresponding financial impact statement with Fla. Stat. 100.371. The Supreme Court held (1) the initiative petition and proposed ballot title and summary for the proposed amendment met the legal requirements of Fla. Const. art. XI, 3 and Fla. Stat. 101.161(1); and (2) this Court does not have original jurisdiction to review financial impact statements. View "Advisory Opinion to the Attorney General Re Raising Florida's Minimum Wage" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Third District Court of Appeal concluding that Fla. Stat. 776.032(4) was a substantive change in the law and therefore did not apply retroactively, holding that section 776.032(4) is a procedural change in the law and applies to all Florida "Stand Your Ground" immunity hearings conducted on or after the statute's effective date. Section 776.032(4), which effective in June 2017 altered the burden of proof at pretrial immunity hearings under Stand Your Ground law, applies to pending cases involving criminal conduct committed prior to the effective date of the statute. In the instant case, Defendant's immunity hearing took place after the statute went into effect. The Third District concluded that section 776.032(4) did not apply retroactively, and therefore, the statute was inapplicable in this case. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below and remanded the case, holding (1) section 776.032(4) is a procedural change in the law and not categorically barred by Fla. Const. art. X, 9 from applying in pending cases; (2) the determination of whether a new procedure applies in a pending case generally depends on the posture of the case; and (3) applying section 776.032(4) in a pending case does not entail a retroactive application of the statute. View "Love v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Supreme Court dismissed Petitioner's petition for review of the decision of the Third District Court of Appeal concluding that Petitioner's "negligent security" claim against Miami-Dade County was barred by sovereign immunity, holding that the conflict issue in this case was a dead issue that has been resolved by this Court in previous opinions. Petitioner was shot and injured at a birthday party hosted at one of the County's public parks. The Third District concluded that Petitioner's personal injury claim was predicated on the County's alleged failure to allocate off-duty police officers to the party and that sovereign immunity protects the County's policy and planning decisions about where to allocate its limited police resources. The Third District reached its holding irrespective of any duty owed to Petitioner by the County. Petitioner petitioned for review, arguing that the existence of duty rendered sovereign immunity inapplicable. The Supreme Court dismissed Petitioner's petition for review without reaching the merits, holding that the merging of duty and sovereign immunity has already been resolved by this Court in opinions making clear that duty and sovereign immunity are not to be conflated. View "Sanchez v. Miami-Dade County" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
The Supreme Court approved the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeal in this insurance dispute, holding that an insurer that issues a reduced premium collector vehicle policy may not limit uninsured motorist coverage under the specialty policy to accidents involving the occupancy or use of the collector vehicle. The Estate of Michael Lentini, who was operating his motorcycle when he was involved in a fatal accident, sought uninsured motorist benefits under a policy issued on a collector vehicle. The policy limited uninsured motorist coverage to accidents involving the covered collector vehicle. The Insurer denied coverage, and the Estate sued. The trial court entered summary judgment for the Insurer. The Fifth District reversed, concluding that the collector vehicle policy must and did not comply with the statutory requirements of Fla. Stat. 627.727. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the requirements of section 627.727 prohibited the limitations placed on uninsured motorist coverage in the collector vehicle policy at issue in this case. View "American Southern Home Insurance Co. v. Lentini" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law