Ex Post Facto Laws

An ex post facto law would include a law that imposes a new or increased punishment on an act that occurred before the law took effect. As with double jeopardy, “the prohibition on ex post facto laws applies only to criminal or penal provisions.” Lescher v. Florida Dept. of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, 985 So. 2d 1078, 1081 (Fla. 2008).

The passage of an ex post facto law is prohibited under FLA. CONST. art. I, s. 10, which provides: “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law or law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be passed.” The United States Constitution contains a similar prohibition against an ex post facto law in U.S. CONST. art. 1, s. 9, cl. 3.

The Florida Supreme Court recently reiterated the 200-year-old categories of ex post facto laws as articulated by the United States Supreme Court:

1st. Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action.

2d. Every law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed.

3d. Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed. 4th. Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offense, in order to convict the offender.

Shenfeld v. State, 44 So. 3d 96, 100 (Fla. 2010) (citing Calder v. Bull, 3 U.S. 386, 390-91 (1798)).

This article was last updated on Thursday, March 28, 2019.