Florida has adopted a new law that could impose the death penalty for those convicted of raping a child younger than 12 years old. The bill was signed into law by Governor DeSantis and is expected to face controversy in the legal field.
How this penalty is enforced
For a perpetrator to receive the death penalty, eight or more jurors must recommend the punishment. A judge would then be allowed to impose either the death penalty or a life sentence. However, if fewer than eight jurors recommend the death penalty, the judge has no choice but to impose a life sentence as is common in other sexual abuse cases.
Some legal analysts believe the new law violates the 8th Amendment, which states cruel and unusual punishment may not be used to discipline criminal offenders. The law also contradicts a 2008 bill passed by the Supreme Court, which says no individual may be charged with the death penalty if the victim did not die. Therefore, the Supreme Court would have to reverse this decision before enforcing the new law.
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, 90% of children who have experienced sexual assault know the person who assaulted them, and 30% are assaulted by family members. This could add a layer of difficulty for the victim to endure their family member or close family friend being put to death. Additionally, death penalty cases tend to take a long time, adding to the hardship of the process. Most other sexual offense crimes take significantly less time to go through the legal process.
While this law is still in its infancy, it is the beginning of significant change to the legal ramifications of child sexual assault. Proponents of the law will likely continue the fight to ensure this punishment becomes an enforceable reality.