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October 2015

New Cybersecurity Bill Passed by Senate Creates Privacy Concerns

150 150 Joel Leppard

cybersecurity

A new bill called the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) was passed by the Senate on Tuesday. Its main goal is to stop hackers by getting companies to share information with the federal government about any cyber attacks they face. Basically, CISA works by works by letting companies share “cyber threat indicators” with the Department of Homeland Security, which then sends out a red alert to warn other people of the threat.

You may be thinking: Don’t companies already have initiatives in place to share threat information? Yes. But what makes CISA different is that Homeland Security can now share the report with the National Security Agency and other spy agencies.

One huge concern is that nowhere in the bill does it say customers’ personally identifiable information has to be left out of the report. In fact, of the countless amendments made to the bill, one necessary amendment that actually failed on Tuesday would have made it mandatory to remove that information before a company could share information about threats.

Here’s another catch: Although a company’s cooperation in sharing information is voluntary, the bill gives companies a nice incentive to do so by eliminating legal liability. For example, if a company ends up sharing too much information about its customers, it won’t have to worry about private lawsuits or antitrust laws.

CISA opposers believe that the bill ignores the goal of encouraging companies to increase their cybersecurity standards and puts more responsibility on a “generalized public-private secret information sharing network.” In other words, opponents say CISA creates a new law in the wrong places.

Learn more here: http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/10/27/452338925/senate-approves-cybersecurity-bill-what-you-need-to-know

Florida’s Harsh 10-20-Life Law on the Road to Reform

150 150 Joel Leppard

10-20-life

Florida’s harsh 10-20-Life mandatory minimum sentencing law is on a long road to reform, but small steps are being taken to give judges more authority in certain cases.

The 10-20-Life law strictly punishes anyone who is in possession of or actually uses a firearm while committing a crime by imposing a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, 20 years, or 25 years to life depending on the nature of the crime. For example, if a person simply pulled out a weapon while committing a crime, he or she would have to serve 10 years in jail regardless of the circumstances.

One example of why the 10-20-Life law is too harsh is the August 2010 case involving Marissa Alexander. Alexander shot what she called a warning shot near her ex-husband, who was physically abusive towards her and sent her threatening text messages. The shot did not hurt her ex-husband, yet Alexander was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a firearm. Under the 10-20-Life law, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison despite having no criminal past. Fortunately, after serving just 3 years in prison, Alexander was released due to a faulty jury instruction in her case.

Although things ended well for Alexander, this is not the typical outcome in most cases. That is why the proposal of a new bill (HB 135) by Florida legislators is a great step in the right direction.  The bill, called the Self-Defense Protection Act, makes exceptions to certain mandatory minimum sentences if the defendant had a justifiable reason to use a firearm.

The bill will not eliminate the entire problem, of course. Some defendants will still be harshly punished under the 10-20-Life law because judges cannot change the sentence to match circumstances, but at least progress is being made and judges will be able to act fairly in the cases in which it applies.

Learn more here: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/editorial-proposed-bill-chips-away-at-harsh-mandat/nnyLQ/#modal-8250266

Supreme Court Case Could Result in Change in Florida’s Death-Penalty Laws

150 150 Joel Leppard

Florida, Delaware and Alabama are the only states that do not require a unanimous jury decision when sentencing someone to death.  A U.S. Supreme Court case with a ruling expected in 2016, however, could change Florida’s death penalty procedure.

Timothy Hurst, a man currently on Death Row for murder, is appealing his death sentence. Jurors in his case recommended death by a 7-5 vote, but Hurst’s attorneys argue that allowing this sentence without a unanimous jury is a violation of Hurst’s Sixth Amendment rights.

The sentencing of hundreds of other people on Florida’s Death Row could be impacted if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hurst. Former Jacksonville State Attorney Harry Shorstein said the impact of the issue could be avoided if it is fixed legislatively instead of in court.

Legislation that would change the law to require a unanimous jury recommendation of death has already been introduced into the Florida House and Senate, however. The issue with both bills is that they have been sponsored by Democrats, and the majority of people in the Florida House and Senate are Republican.

Rep. Rob Bradley, who is on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, does not believe legislation regarding the death penalty is likely to pass during the 2016 legislative session. He voted for a similar bill in 2015, but the legislation went nowhere in the House.

Bradley personally believes that the Supreme Court will deem Florida’s sentencing procedures unconstitutional in the Hurst case, which makes it more likely that the issue will be dealt with in the 2017 regular session.

For more information, please read: http://jacksonville.com/news/crime/2015-10-11/story/former-jacksonville-state-attorney-joins-others-calling-change-florida.

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