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Press Release

Justice Department Secures Agreement with Florida State Attorney’s Office to Resolve Allegations of Discrimination Against Hispanic Defendants

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department announced today that it has secured an agreement with the Florida State Attorney’s Office for the Second Judicial Circuit (SAO) resolving allegations of violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI).

Specifically, the agreement resolves allegations of discrimination against Hispanic defendants charged with driving without a valid driver’s license by providing less favorable plea offers to them than it did to non-Hispanic defendants charged with the same crime. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin by recipients of federal financial assistance.

“To ensure fair, equitable treatment as well as public safety, state and local prosecutors must provide equal treatment in all aspects of the administration of justice, including plea deals,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Through this agreement, the State Attorney for Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit is taking action that will help ensure that the community is served without bias or discrimination.”

The department’s inquiry was prompted by allegations that the SAO posted plea offer guidelines that discriminated based on national origin by providing for harsher plea offers for Hispanic individuals driving without a valid license as compared to similarly situated individuals.

The SAO fully cooperated with the department’s inquiry and, under the terms of the agreement, agreed to take a number of steps to ensure nondiscrimination in prosecution, including implementing a new nondiscrimination policy and training its staff about nondiscrimination obligations.

Additionally, the SAO committed to convene a working group of community stakeholders to assist with the SAO’s continuing efforts to develop best practices for working with the community it serves. The SAO also will send a letter to defendants who may have been impacted by the alleged discriminatory policy, offering them an opportunity to seek an alternative disposition of their charge. The letter will be translated for defendants with limited English proficiency. The SAO has stated that it remains committed to ensuring that no defendant was discriminated against with respect to any plea offer made for the charge of driving without a valid driver’s license.

Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt. Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at civilrights.justice.gov/report/.

Updated June 20, 2024

Topic
Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 24-790