Proposed Legislation to Exempt Persons with Serious Mental Illness from the Death Penalty


Mental health

The conviction of a capital murder offense in Florida can carry a sentence of life imprisonment or death. Capital punishment is reserved for the most heinous of crimes. It includes premeditated murder and the commission of felony crimes resulting in another person’s death.

Florida Senate Bill 1156

   The legislative bill sponsored by Pinellas County Senator Jeff Brandes would exempt those with serious mental illness from the death penalty. The proposed legislation, SB 1156, passed unanimously through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on March 30, 2021. This new law is expected to take effect on 7/1/2021. This bill does not preclude a guilty verdict with a sentence of life imprisonment without the chance of parole for capital crimes committed by a defendant with serious mental illness. It allows for retroactive applications for defendants who were previously convicted.

The Proposed Bill, SB 1156, defines Serious Mental Illness as:

“any mental diagnosis, disability or defect that significantly impairs a person’s capacity to do any of the following:

  • Appreciate the nature, consequences, or wrongfulness of his or her conduct in the criminal defense;
  • Exercise rational judgment in relation to the criminal offense; or
  • Conform his or her conduct to the requirements of the law in connection with the criminal offense.”

Assessments for all Phases of a Potential Death Penalty Case

   At a criminal trial, the defense attorney must provide clear and convincing evidence of the defendant’s serious mental illness at the time of the offense to exempt them from the death penalty. This assessment should be conducted by a multidisciplinary team of qualified professionals.

   There is substantial support for this legislation from numerous organizations and professionals in Florida. Some of these include the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Florida American Civil Liberties Union, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and Florida mental health professionals.

The AP Law Group is uniquely qualified to defend Death Penalty Crimes

   At the AP Law Group, we are fierce advocates for our clients and seasoned trial attorneys. Attorney Tania Alavi is a Qualified Death Criminal Defense Attorney. She is one of a small percentage of attorneys who have met the American Bar Association requirements and the Florida Guidelines for representation in the legal defense of capital crimes. For more than a decade, she has handled death penalty cases all over the state of Florida in addition to her regular criminal cases.

 Attorney Tania Alavi aggressively represents persons charged with death penalty crimes, including those that exhibit serious mental illness. At The AP Law Group, we know that persons with serious mental illness are at a significant disadvantage defending themselves against criminal charges.

Contact our law firm at 352-732-9191 in Ocala, Florida, to speak with a skilled trial attorney that can defend your rights. We have proven results in criminal defense for capital felony crimes and all other misdemeanor and felony charges.