In 2015, citizens of South Florida were given a much needed dose of hope when Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties all voted to make the possession of small quantities of cannabis a civil infraction rather than a criminal offense. The new laws would require violators to simply pay a small fine and gave them a chance to avoid getting slapped with a criminal record over a little weed.
The implementation of those laws has hit a few snags, however, and they have yet to fully go into effect in Broward and Palm Beach. Another roadblock was encountered earlier this month when the City of Fort Lauderdale City Commission formally elected not to participate in the County’s civil citation program.
The City Prosecutor for Fort Lauderdale issued a memorandum outlining several reasons why she felt that the City should remove itself from the County’s decriminalization efforts. Those reasons included legal issues with conflicting City code provisions, concerns about double jeopardy and speedy trial problems, and the fact that the City Prosecutor has its own competing diversion program which allows first offenders to have their charges dismissed in some instances. The City Prosecutor’s memo can be read by clicking here.
On February 16, 2016, the City Commission agreed with the City Prosecutor and voted unanimously to opt out of the County’s civil citation program. So, if you are in Fort Lauderdale, don’t count on simply paying a $100 fine if you get caught with a joint.
But, the news isn’t all bad. The City Commission also included a directive in its resolution telling the City Manager to develop a civil citation program of its own for Fort Lauderdale. It is still unclear when the City Manager will do that, or what the the details of that program will be, but it at least holds open the possibility that Fort Lauderdale will re-join the trend towards decriminalization in the future.
The full text of the City resolution can be read by clicking here.