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Horowitz: DeSantis vetoes 2 weak-on-crime bills from GOP-dominated legislature
Brandon Bell / Staff via Getty Images

Horowitz: DeSantis vetoes 2 weak-on-crime bills from GOP-dominated legislature

Nearly every Republican claims to support law and order and to oppose the blue-city crime wave, but almost none of them are actually supporting bills toughening sentencing on violent criminals. In fact, GOP-controlled legislatures are still promoting left-wing jailbreak bills, making it harder to deter and incarcerate people who need to be taken off the streets.

We have all heard about the dozens of conservative bills Ron DeSantis signed this past legislative session, but don’t think his veto pen laid dormant. The GOP-dominated legislature passed two jailbreak bills nearly unanimously. Taken together, they were designed to keep more potentially violent career criminals out of jail by lowering criminal points and downgrading parole violations for people who, by definition, already got their second chance and violated it.

SB 1478, which passed without any opposition, would bar judges from considering community sanction violations that were resolved through the “alternative sanctioning program” from being used to calculate total sentencing points when determining an offender’s sentence for a violation of probation. One can understand why all the legislators felt this was a classic example of grace for “nonviolent, first-time offenders.” However, the point of this bill is not to give leeway to low-level violations. We’re talking about people who could be in prison for serious crimes with a substantial criminal record who are then placed on parole and then violate the terms of their parole multiples times. It is those people who commit the most crime in this country. The story of crime in Chicago centers around a lack of enforcement against parole violations.

Thus, someone who commits violations of parole that trigger more prison time should absolutely have their entire record on display for the judge to assess. Low-level crimes committed by those who had their second chances and commit other crimes need to be part of the full picture presented to a judge.

The bill would also require a probationer or offender who commits a low-risk violation to be released within 20 days if a violation hearing does not occur and would require a maximum prison time of 90 days for a first violation and 120 days for a second violation. Again, we are talking about people who broke their parole and already had their much-vaunted second chance that jailbreak advocates pine for. Who on earth thinks that the system, in general, is too strict on criminals? Nobody but politicians.

The other bill, HB 605, was even more egregious. Under current Florida law, a criminal has an opportunity to apply for expungement of records either as a juvenile or an adult — but not for both. HB 605 would have allowed the individual two bites at the apple. The bill passed by a vote of 38-0 in the Senate and 107-2 in the House. What sane Republican thinks we are too strict on juvenile crime? Much of violent crime is now committed by younger and younger individuals, either as juveniles or young adults. It’s gotten so bad in San Francisco that teens are beating pregnant women as they drop off their kids at day care.

By offering more expungement, it will take so much longer to lock up those who are indeed not first-time, nonviolent offenders, and they will have to commit so many more serious crimes before they are incapacitated. Why would we want to specifically target for leniency someone who commits a crime as a juvenile and then shows that continued pattern as an adult to get yet another expunction?

The quintessential example is the case of Keith Moses, 19, who was accused of killing three people in Orange County in February, including a TV reporter covering the initial shooting. The alleged murders were committed when he was an adult, but he had been arrested nearly 20 times before, including at least eight felony arrests and 11 misdemeanor arrests. It’s people like Moses who commit multiple felonies, including for grand larceny and battery (not just a one-time shoplifting), who go on to commit murders. It’s people like this who will benefit from more leniency on juvenile crimes.

Offering endless leniencies and expungements as juveniles is exactly how we get a higher murder rate, the perpetrators of which are increasingly becoming younger. In New York City, for example, 124 juveniles committed shootings during 2022, up from 62 in 2020 and 48 in 2019. There’s also been a surge in juvenile crime in central Florida. A classic example of the most dangerous criminals not being deterred as juveniles and going on to commit more crimes as adults is J’son Cyprian of Lake County. He was convicted at 17 of armed robbery in April 2022 but was free as a bird to commit more robbery just a year later. Under this proposed legislation, Cyprian could go for full expungement on both. On what planet do Florida legislators think that people like this serve too much time?

People are outraged after these incidents occur and always demand to know why the perpetrator was walking the streets, but the answer is simple. Rather than focusing on toughening the system, the legislators continue to do the bidding of the Chamber of Commerce and the Koch-Soros alliance for leniency. The lobbyists for HB 605 were Koch- and Soros-funded groups.

Soros is a big funder of Tides, and the Institute for Justice is funded from Koch money.

DeSantis thankfully vetoed both bills. This comes a week after DeSantis vetoed a ridiculous electric vehicle/green energy bill. It’s shocking what the liberal lobbyists get past a supermajority Republican legislature. It’s a dynamic you never find with conservative groups when the shoe is on the other foot with Democratic control.

It’s truly frustrating how everyone seems to recognize the problems with easier bail, loose parole enforcement, weaker sentencing, and essentially no deterrent against violent repeat offenders, including juveniles, yet, when the rubber meets the legislative road, most Republicans still promote weak-on-crime laws rather than plugging the leaky criminal justice system. Every session, most red state legislatures continue to push for more leniencies at a time when they need to tighten up probation and bail rules, lengthen some sentences, and strengthen three-strikes-and-you’re-out laws.

This is not the first time DeSantis has had to veto jailbreak legislation from his own party. Two years ago, DeSantis vetoed SB 274, which would have allowed expungement of all juvenile offenses, including serious crimes, after completing a diversion program. Those convicted of first-time misdemeanors can already apply for expungement under current law, so by definition, this bill was also designed for juvenile gang members who pose some of the greatest threats to our streets. For some reason, it passed unanimously, and bizarrely, there is still an effort in Florida to weaken juvenile justice.

Clearly, Republicans are lacking a leader in other states with a vision for law and order. DeSantis, on the other hand, has consistently fought against jailbreak, which is why his promises on crime as a presidential candidate ring louder than the typical campaign bluster. He is also fully implementing the law denying out-of-state driver’s licenses for illegal aliens. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will no longer recognize licenses granted to illegals in Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont. This is already having a deterring effect, with some illegal aliens leaving the state.

Crime is the prototypical issue for which the GOP campaigns strong but fails to deliver results and often enacts the opposite policies. Once again, DeSantis is showing that he is in a class of his own when it comes to discernable policy outcomes. Where are the other governors?

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