The “Savings Clause,” which prohibits changes made to criminal statutes to be applied retroactively, was added to the Florida Constitution in 1885. This means that people continue to be punished for crimes that Florida has reduced the penalties for or no longer considers to be crimes.

This policy is significant because it helps to create a criminal system that is locked in its past with limited means to remediate past mistakes. As a result, even when forward-thinking reforms were made to criminal statutes, those who have been the most directly affected by the existing policy have failed to benefit from the changes. 

This clause was later repealed by state voters via a constitutional amendment in 2018; however, lawmakers then passed implementing legislation curtailing the amendment’s intended purpose. (For more information, see the year 2018 on the timeline.)