The Senate passed legislation Wednesday that cracks down on those who would tamper with evidence in capital felony cases.
The decision was made to pass the House version of the legislation, approved last week by a 111-1 vote. That was substituted for SB 796, the identical Sen. Jennifer Bradley bill.
After the substitution, the Senate passed the House bill by a 39-0 vote.
HB 287, introduced by Rep. Sam Garrison of Clay County, would make tampering with or fabricating evidence a second-degree felony if done in a criminal trial, proceeding or investigation relating to capital felonies.
If the bill is signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, it would take effect Oct. 1.
This legislation could bring a significant change to criminal investigations in capital felony cases.
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 and other capital felony cases and lesser offenses, such as possession of marijuana.
Expectations are that enhanced penalties would lead to more severe penalties 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.”
Dozens of inmates are sentenced every year for tampering with evidence already. In Fiscal Year 2019-20, 57 inmates were convicted on that charge, with 68 convicted of evidence tampering the previous year.