On Nov. 6, Florida voters will decide the fate of an amendment that would repeal Article X, Section 9 of the state constitution, known as the savings clause, which bans any changes to a criminal statute from being applied retroactively.
The state Constitution Revision Commission added Amendment11 to the ballot in April 2018. Bundled with two unrelated proposals — alien property ownership and high-speed transportation — the savings clause repeal is extremely important to criminal justice reform efforts in Florida. It would have major fiscal benefits for taxpayers and unprecedented positive effects on Florida’s inmate population.
The savings clause dates back to 1885. It was enacted as a response to a well-known criminal case in which the state could not prosecute a defendant on an assault charge because the Legislature had repealed the assault statute and neglected to lock in prosecutions for offenses committed before the repeal. Florida’s constitutional measure is highly uncommon, as most states with such a provision have it as a statute. In fact, only Oklahoma and New Mexico have similar provisions in their constitutions. Among the three states, Florida’s is the strictest.