Home> Legal Associations> Criminal Defense Lawyers Associations> NACDL - National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers> News >NACDL President Calls Out Florida Prosecutor’s Office Memo on Seeking Tougher Penalties for Hispanic People as Racist and Unlawful – Washington, DC (April 23, 2023)
NACDL - National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Apr 23, 2023

NACDL President Calls Out Florida Prosecutor’s Office Memo on Seeking Tougher Penalties for Hispanic People as Racist and Unlawful – Washington, DC (April 23, 2023)

Washington, DC (April 23, 2023) – In the wake of Florida news reports about a policy statement in the Jefferson County State Attorney’s Office directing prosecutors to seek tougher penalties for "Hispanic" people who don’t hold a driver’s license, the nation’s criminal defense bar condemned the memo as racist and unlawful.

The policy memo, which was leaked to the media and confirmed as authentic but labeled a mistake by Florida’s State Attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit, Jack Campbell.  The memo conveyed his prosecutors should offer more serious plea deals to individuals who have an "extensive criminal history" or are, "and/or HISPANIC." The memo states these individuals should be "adjudicated guilty" and forced to pay court costs. Defendants who do not fall in the category of "HISPANIC" would be offered more lenient deals involving either a diversion program, where charges would ultimately be dropped, or a disposition which would not result in a conviction on their criminal record.  Campbell says that in place of "HISPANIC," the memo should have said "undocumented immigrant."

National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) President Nellie L. King of West Palm Beach, Florida stated:

"This Florida prosecutor’s memo puts in writing a policy which is blatantly discriminatory and harmful to Latinx people who comprise nearly one in four people in my home state of Florida and, if implemented, violates the U.S. Constitution. Under the Equal Protection Clause, the government cannot discriminate against people based on their race, ethnicity, or national origin. A prosecutor’s office conflating 'Hispanic' individuals with undocumented immigrants is deeply offensive to the Equal Protection Clause and the core values of our criminal legal system. The prosecutor’s explanation – blaming the language on an entry-level employee, and later denying the racist policy exists in the first place, falls short in the plausibility department.  When an elected official refuses to accept any level of responsibility for a policy widespread enough to be openly posted on the walls of a county building under his supervision, it demonstrates a failure of leadership at the highest levels. Any training needs to start at the top of this State Attorney’s Office, not entry-level. This policy is emblematic of a widespread problem in one of the most powerful offices in the community: openly endorsing the targeting of Latinx individuals for harsher penalties simply because of their ethnicity. And more questions and concerns arise: why are prosecutors assuming that undocumented immigrants are necessarily Hispanic? NACDL calls on the Florida Attorney General to investigate this matter and take all necessary steps to ensure that discrimination based on racist attitudes and stereotypes is exposed and prohibited. NACDL remains committed to fighting discrimination, ensuring that everyone receives equal justice under law, and promoting a fair and more humane criminal legal system."


Jonathan Hutson, NACDL Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 480-5343 or jhutson@nacdl.org

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.

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NACDL - National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Founded in 1958, NACDL is the largest organization for criminal defense lawyers fighting to preserve fairness within America's criminal justice system. The organization has more than 10,000 direct members including criminal defense attorneys in private practice, public defenders in state or federal court, U.S. military defense counsel, law professors and judges.