On Monday, a Senate committee approved enhanced penalties for tampering with evidence in certain felony cases.
Sen. Jennifer Bradley’s bill (SB 796) cleared the Judiciary Committee, the second of three committees of reference for the legislation.
Bradley’s bill would make tampering with or fabricating evidence a second-degree felony if done in a criminal trial, proceeding or investigation relating to felonies.
Currently, it’s a third-degree felony to tamper with evidence in all cases, and the law does not distinguish between tampering with evidence in murder cases and lesser offenses, such as possession of marijuana.
Expectations are that enhanced penalties would lead to more convictions on the charge. A staff analysis of a similar bill filed for the 2021 Session asserted a potential “positive indeterminate impact on prison beds by increasing the felony degrees and penalties for tampering with or fabricating physical evidence in specified cases.”
Bradley, a Republican from Fleming Island, told Judiciary the bill would affect capital crimes specifically, bringing the evidence-tampering statute in line with the perjury statute.
The State Attorneys of Florida had a representative on hand in support of the bill, which got no debate ahead of the committee vote.
The legislation is moving even more quickly in the House, meanwhile.
That bill (HB 287), introduced by Rep. Sam Garrison of Clay County, is already on the second reading calendar.
These parallel legislative proposals emerged in the wake of a high-profile murder of a teenage girl in Northeast Florida. The suspect’s mother was charged with attempting to scrub the murder victim’s blood out of her son’s jeans, and despite the seriousness of the crime, only a third-degree felony charge is being pursued against the suspect’s mother.