New Florida death penalty rape law goes into effect Sunday

Gavel and a name plate with the engraving Death Penalty

Photo: Zerbor / iStock / Getty Images

A new law that could lead to imposing the death penalty on people who rape children under age 12 will take effect Sunday, along with several other laws passed during the 2023 legislative session. 

The child sexual battery measure likely will draw legal challenges, as U.S. Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court precedents have barred death sentences for rapists. 

Under the law, judges would have the discretion to impose the death penalty or sentence defendants to life in prison.

Juries would still need to unanimously find defendants guilty of the crimes before the sentencing phase would begin. 

If fewer than eight jurors recommend death, judges would have to impose life sentences. 

During the 2023 legislative session, bill sponsor Jonathan Martin said the measure is for the protection of children. 

“If an individual rapes an 11-year-old, a 10-year-old, a 2-year-old or a 5-year-old, they should be subject to the death penalty.” 

Seven other new laws also take effect Sunday, including increased penalties for fans who interfere with sporting events and requiring teens to at least have learner’s permits to drive golf carts on public roads. 

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