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Franklin v. State - 887 So. 2d 1063 (Fla. 2004)

Rule:

When courts are called upon to assess legislation for compliance with Fla. Const. art. III, § 6 (1968), the standard of review is highly deferential. The general disposition of the courts is to construe the constitutional provision liberally, rather than to embarrass legislation by a construction whose strictness is unnecessary to the accomplishment of the beneficial purposes for which it has been adopted. Should any doubt exist that an act is in violation of art. III, § 16, or of any constitutional provision, the presumption is in favor of constitutionality. To overcome the presumption, the invalidity must appear beyond reasonable doubt, for it must be assumed the legislature intended to enact a valid law. Therefore, the act must be construed, if fairly possible, as to avoid unconstitutionality and to remove grave doubts on that score.

Facts:

Chapter 99-188, enacted during the 1999 legislative session, became effective July 1, 1999. After the effective date of such act, defendant Franklin was convicted of armed robbery and resisting arrest. He received a sentence of 40 years in prison as a habitual felony offender, pursuant to § 775.084, Florida Statutes, which had been amended by § 3 of the Act. Franklin's prior criminal history consisted of one felony conviction (possession of cocaine) and one felony for which adjudication of guilt was withheld (burglary of a dwelling). Prior to the Act's amendment to § 775.084, an offense for which adjudication of guilt had been withheld would not have qualified as a predicate for habitual offender sentencing unless the subsequent offense pending for sentencing was committed while the offender was on probation or community control after the withhold of adjudication. Franklin appealed. While his appeal was pending, the Second District held in Taylor v. State, 818 So. 2d 544 (Fla. 2d DCA 2002), that the Act violated the single subject requirement of article III, § 6. Relying on Taylor, Franklin filed a motion to correct illegal sentence pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(b). The trial court granted the motion and the State appealed to the Third Court of Appeal, which certified the question to the Supreme Court of Florida.

Issue:

Did chapter 99-188, Laws of Florida (Act), designated by the Legislature as the “Three-Strike Violent Felony Offender Act,” violate the one-subject and matter rule mandated by the Florida Constitution?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court first determined that defendant had standing to assert a single-subject challenge, notwithstanding the fact that he was not directly affected by either §§ 11 or 13 of the Act. Second, the court held that there was a natural or logical and thus proper connection between the requirements of § 11 that sentences of non-citizen offenders be provided to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). This conclusion was buttressed by the fact that in requiring the transmission of sentences to the INS, § 11 also promoted the Act's purpose of protecting the public from persons sentenced as serious or repeat violent offenders. Third, § 13 made effective one of the purposes included within the subject--imposing harsher sentences on violent offenders. Thus, the provisions at issue did not violate the single-subject rule.

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