Franklin v. State, Nos. 40758

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; ROBERTS; BOYD; ROBERTS
Citation257 So.2d 21
Decision Date17 December 1971
Docket NumberNos. 40758,40757
PartiesAlva Gene FRANKLIN, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee. Stephen F. JOYCE, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.

Page 21

257 So.2d 21
Alva Gene FRANKLIN, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Stephen F. JOYCE, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Nos. 40758, 40757.
Supreme Court of Florida.
Dec. 17, 1971.

Page 22

Walter R. Talley, Public Defender, for appellants.

Robert L. Shevin, Atty. Gen., and P. A. Pacyna, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.

PER CURIAM:

We here consider these consolidated appeals transferred by the District Court of Appeal, Second District, 1 243 So.2d 440, because the trial judge passed upon and upheld the constitutionality of Fla.Stat. § 800.01, F.S.A., reading as follows:

'Whoever commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, either with mankind or with beast, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison not exceeding twenty years.'

The renewed attack on the language of this statute for constitutional vagueness and overbreadth is not surprising in view of the guarded wording used in such statutes in 1868 when it was drafted. A very serious question is raised as to whether the statute meets the recognized constitutional test that it inform the average person of common intelligence as to what is prohibited so that he need not speculate as to the statutory meaning. 2 If the language does not meet this test, then it must fall and the matter must be left to legislative correction. This statute and others relating to a variety of sex offenses need immediate legislative review and action. We urgently commend this important area of great social

Page 23

concern for appropriate remedial legislation.

We have over a long period of time upheld the statute despite earlier constitutional challenges. 3 We are persuaded that these holdings and this statute require our reconsideration. One reason which makes this apparent is the transition of language over the span of the past 100 years of this law's existence. The change and upheaval of modern times are of drastic proportions. People's understandings of subjects, expressions and experiences are different than they were even a decade ago. The fact of these changes in the land must be taken into account and appraised. Their effect and the reasonable reaction and understanding of people today relate to statutory language.

The blindfold upon our Lady of Justice is symbolic of impartiality, as being blind to all outside influences which would divert from the material facts and law applicable to the case in which justice is being sought upon its merits. Her blindfold in no wise suggests that justice should be blind to the facts of life and of the times in which it functions; for the law, to be vibrant, must be a living thing, responsive to the society which it serves, and to which that society looks as the last true depository of truth and justice.

A further reason dictating our reexamination here is the expansion of constitutional rulings on the invasion of private rights by state intrusion which must be taken into account in the consideration of this statute's continuing validity. The language in this statute could entrap unsuspecting citizens and subject them to 20-year sentences for which the statute provides. Such a sentence is equal to that for manslaughter and would no doubt be a shocking revelation to persons who do not have an understanding of the meaning of the statute.

Those who are versed in the law may understand the statute's meaning because of their knowledge of legal interpretations in court opinions, but it seems to us that if today's world is to have brought home to it what it is that the statute prohibits, it must be set forth in language which is relevant to today's society and is understandable to the average citizen of common intelligence which is the constitutional test of such language. 4

We do not, of course, here sanction historically forbidden sexual acts, homosexuality or bestiality. We only say that in this, as in any other conduct which is made a crime by statute, the forbidden conduct must be stated in terms which meet the constitutional test, i.e., that it is understood by the average man of common intelligence. 5

It is authoritatively recognized that:

'This statute provides a penalty for a crime, but Fails to deliniate (sic) What conduct will violate its terms.' 6 (emphasis added)

Common law definitions are of course resorted to when the forbidden conduct is not defined. 7 This may supply the deficiency for...

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67 practice notes
  • In re A.P., No. 2019-246
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 9, 2020
    ...545, 547 (Tex. Crim. App. 1974). The Florida Supreme Court struck down a "crime against nature" statute for vagueness. Franklin v. State, 257 So.2d 21, 23 (Fla. 1971); see also Campbell v. State, 331 So.2d 289, 290-91 (Fla. 1976) (England, J., concurring) (concurring in judgment that over-c......
  • In re A.P., No. 19-246
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 9, 2020
    ...545, 547 (Tex. Crim. App. 1974). The Florida Supreme Court struck down a "crime against nature" statute for vagueness. Franklin v. State, 257 So. 2d 21, 23 (Fla. 1971) ; see also Campbell v. State, 331 So. 2d 289, 290-91 (Fla. 1976) (England, J., concurring) (concurring in judgment that ove......
  • Rhodes v. State, No. 41416
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • September 19, 1973
    ...378 U.S. 347, 84 S.Ct. 1697, 12 L.Ed.2d 894 (1964); United States v. Lang (1973), C.Dist.Calif., 361 F.Supp. 380. 16 Franklin v. State, 257 So.2d 21 17 Note 13, Supra. 18 We had the subject before us more recently in Witherspoon v. State, 278 So.2d 611 (Fla.1973), wherein we directly upheld......
  • Lamont v. State, Nos. 89-2917
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • February 18, 1992
    ...statutes must say with some precision exactly what is prohibited. E.g., Brown v. State, 358 So.2d 16 (Fla.1978); Franklin v. State, 257 So.2d 21 (Fla.1971); State v. Moo Young, 566 So.2d 1380 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990). Words and meanings beyond the literal language may not be entertained nor may ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
66 cases
  • In re A.P., No. 2019-246
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 9, 2020
    ...545, 547 (Tex. Crim. App. 1974). The Florida Supreme Court struck down a "crime against nature" statute for vagueness. Franklin v. State, 257 So.2d 21, 23 (Fla. 1971); see also Campbell v. State, 331 So.2d 289, 290-91 (Fla. 1976) (England, J., concurring) (concurring in judgment that over-c......
  • In re A.P., No. 19-246
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 9, 2020
    ...545, 547 (Tex. Crim. App. 1974). The Florida Supreme Court struck down a "crime against nature" statute for vagueness. Franklin v. State, 257 So. 2d 21, 23 (Fla. 1971) ; see also Campbell v. State, 331 So. 2d 289, 290-91 (Fla. 1976) (England, J., concurring) (concurring in judgment that ove......
  • Rhodes v. State, No. 41416
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • September 19, 1973
    ...378 U.S. 347, 84 S.Ct. 1697, 12 L.Ed.2d 894 (1964); United States v. Lang (1973), C.Dist.Calif., 361 F.Supp. 380. 16 Franklin v. State, 257 So.2d 21 17 Note 13, Supra. 18 We had the subject before us more recently in Witherspoon v. State, 278 So.2d 611 (Fla.1973), wherein we directly upheld......
  • Lamont v. State, Nos. 89-2917
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • February 18, 1992
    ...statutes must say with some precision exactly what is prohibited. E.g., Brown v. State, 358 So.2d 16 (Fla.1978); Franklin v. State, 257 So.2d 21 (Fla.1971); State v. Moo Young, 566 So.2d 1380 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990). Words and meanings beyond the literal language may not be entertained nor may ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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