2023 Florida Statutes< Back to Statute Search
Title XLVII CRIMINAL PROCEDURE AND CORRECTIONS
Chapter 921 SENTENCE
SECTION 142Sentence of death or life imprisonment for capital drug trafficking felonies; further proceedings to determine sentence.
921.142 Sentence of death or life imprisonment for capital drug trafficking felonies; further proceedings to determine sentence.—
(1) FINDINGS.—The Legislature finds that trafficking in cocaine or opiates carries a grave risk of death or danger to the public; that a reckless disregard for human life is implicit in knowingly trafficking in cocaine or opiates; and that persons who traffic in cocaine or opiates may be determined by the trier of fact to have a culpable mental state of reckless indifference or disregard for human life.
(2) SEPARATE PROCEEDINGS ON ISSUE OF PENALTY.—Upon conviction or adjudication of guilt of a defendant of a capital felony under s. 893.135, the court shall conduct a separate sentencing proceeding to determine whether the defendant should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment as authorized by s. 775.082. The proceeding shall be conducted by the trial judge before the trial jury as soon as practicable. If, through impossibility or inability, the trial jury is unable to reconvene for a hearing on the issue of penalty, having determined the guilt of the accused, the trial judge may summon a special juror or jurors as provided in chapter 913 to determine the issue of the imposition of the penalty. If the trial jury has been waived, or if the defendant pleaded guilty, the sentencing proceeding shall be conducted before a jury impaneled for that purpose, unless waived by the defendant. In the proceeding, evidence may be presented as to any matter that the court deems relevant to the nature of the crime and the character of the defendant and shall include matters relating to any of the aggravating factors enumerated in subsection (7) and for which notice has been provided pursuant to s. 782.04(1)(b) or mitigating circumstances enumerated in subsection (8). Any such evidence that the court deems to have probative value may be received, regardless of its admissibility under the exclusionary rules of evidence, provided the defendant is accorded a fair opportunity to rebut any hearsay statements. However, this subsection shall not be construed to authorize the introduction of any evidence secured in violation of the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the State of Florida. The state and the defendant or the defendant’s counsel shall be permitted to present argument for or against sentence of death.
(3) FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED SENTENCE BY THE JURY.—This subsection applies only if the defendant has not waived his or her right to a sentencing proceeding by a jury.
(a) After hearing all of the evidence presented regarding aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances, the jury shall deliberate and determine if the state has proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, the existence of at least one aggravating factor set forth in subsection (7).
(b) The jury shall return findings identifying each aggravating factor found to exist. A finding that an aggravating factor exists must be unanimous. If the jury:
1. Does not unanimously find at least one aggravating factor, the defendant is ineligible for a sentence of death.
2. Unanimously finds at least one aggravating factor, the defendant is eligible for a sentence of death and the jury shall make a recommendation to the court as to whether the defendant shall be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or to death. The recommendation shall be based on a weighing of all of the following:
a. Whether sufficient aggravating factors exist.
b. Whether aggravating factors exist which outweigh the mitigating circumstances found to exist.
c. Based on the considerations in sub-subparagraphs a. and b., whether the defendant should be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or to death.
(c) If at least eight jurors determine that the defendant should be sentenced to death, the jury’s recommendation to the court must be a sentence of death. If fewer than eight jurors determine that the defendant should be sentenced to death, the jury’s recommendation to the court must be a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
(4) IMPOSITION OF SENTENCE OF LIFE IMPRISONMENT OR DEATH.—
(a) If the jury has recommended a sentence of:
1. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the court shall impose the recommended sentence of life.
2. Death, and at least eight jurors recommend a sentence of death, the court, after considering each aggravating factor found by the jury and all mitigating circumstances, may impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or a sentence of death. The court may consider only an aggravating factor that was unanimously found to exist by the jury. The court may impose a sentence of death only if the jury unanimously finds at least one aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt.
(b) If the defendant waived his or her right to a sentencing proceeding by a jury, the court, after considering all aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances, may impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or a sentence of death. The court may impose a sentence of death only if the court finds at least one aggravating factor has been proven to exist beyond a reasonable doubt.
(5) ORDER OF THE COURT IN SUPPORT OF SENTENCE OF LIFE IMPRISONMENT OR DEATH.—In each case in which the court imposes a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or death, the court shall, considering the records of the trial and the sentencing proceedings, enter a written order addressing the aggravating factors set forth in subsection (7) found to exist, the mitigating circumstances in subsection (8) reasonably established by the evidence, whether there are sufficient aggravating factors to warrant the death penalty, and whether the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating circumstances reasonably established by the evidence. The court must include in its written order the reasons for not accepting the jury’s recommended sentence, if applicable. If the court does not issue its order requiring the death sentence within 30 days after the rendition of the judgment and sentence, the court shall impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in accordance with s. 775.082.
(6) REVIEW OF JUDGMENT AND SENTENCE.—The judgment of conviction and sentence of death shall be subject to automatic review and disposition rendered by the Supreme Court of Florida within 2 years after the filing of a notice of appeal. Such review by the Supreme Court shall have priority over all other cases and shall be heard in accordance with rules promulgated by the Supreme Court.
(7) AGGRAVATING FACTORS.—Aggravating factors shall be limited to the following:
(a) The capital felony was committed by a person under a sentence of imprisonment.
(b) The defendant was previously convicted of another capital felony or of a state or federal offense involving the distribution of a controlled substance which is punishable by a sentence of at least 1 year of imprisonment.
(c) The defendant knowingly created grave risk of death to one or more persons such that participation in the offense constituted reckless indifference or disregard for human life.
(d) The defendant used a firearm or knowingly directed, advised, authorized, or assisted another to use a firearm to threaten, intimidate, assault, or injure a person in committing the offense or in furtherance of the offense.
(e) The offense involved the distribution of controlled substances to persons under the age of 18 years, the distribution of controlled substances within school zones, or the use or employment of persons under the age of 18 years in aid of distribution of controlled substances.
(f) The offense involved distribution of controlled substances known to contain a potentially lethal adulterant.
(g) The defendant:
1. Intentionally killed the victim;
2. Intentionally inflicted serious bodily injury that resulted in the death of the victim; or
3. Intentionally engaged in conduct intending that the victim be killed or that lethal force be employed against the victim, which resulted in the death of the victim.
(h) The defendant committed the offense as consideration for the receipt, or in the expectation of the receipt, of anything of pecuniary value.
(i) The defendant committed the offense after planning and premeditation.
(j) The defendant committed the offense in a heinous, cruel, or depraved manner in that the offense involved torture or serious physical abuse to the victim.
(8) MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES.—Mitigating circumstances shall include the following:
(a) The defendant has no significant history of prior criminal activity.
(b) The capital felony was committed while the defendant was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance.
(c) The defendant was an accomplice in the capital felony committed by another person, and the defendant’s participation was relatively minor.
(d) The defendant was under extreme duress or under the substantial domination of another person.
(e) The capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminality of her or his conduct or to conform her or his conduct to the requirements of law was substantially impaired.
(f) The age of the defendant at the time of the offense.
(g) The defendant could not have reasonably foreseen that her or his conduct in the course of the commission of the offense would cause or would create a grave risk of death to one or more persons.
(h) The existence of any other factors in the defendant’s background that would mitigate against imposition of the death penalty.
(9) VICTIM IMPACT EVIDENCE.—Once the prosecution has provided evidence of the existence of one or more aggravating factors as described in subsection (7), the prosecution may introduce, and subsequently argue, victim impact evidence. Such evidence shall be designed to demonstrate the victim’s uniqueness as an individual human being and the resultant loss to the community’s members by the victim’s death. Characterizations and opinions about the crime, the defendant, and the appropriate sentence shall not be permitted as a part of victim impact evidence.
History.—s. 2, ch. 90-112; s. 2, ch. 92-81; s. 6, ch. 96-290; s. 1837, ch. 97-102; s. 10, ch. 99-188; s. 26, ch. 2000-320; s. 1, ch. 2002-212; s. 19, ch. 2005-128; s. 4, ch. 2016-13; s. 2, ch. 2017-1; s. 130, ch. 2019-167; s. 2, ch. 2023-23.