We must always look for ways to innovate in advocating for our clients. In response to U.S. Supreme Court rulings prohibiting the death penalty and life sentences for juveniles, we shifted resources to resentencing investigations and hearings for clients who were impacted. This resulted in the successful reduction of many sentences and, for some, immediate release.
We then shifted our focus to supporting our clients' transition back into our community. Additionally, we established a dedicated unit with lawyers specializing in forensic sciences to take a closer look at these issues in criminal cases.
The voters approved in 2018 Amendment 4 to the Florida Constitution, which was designed to enable felons, who did not commit murder or a sexual offense and who completed their sentence in full, to become eligible to vote. On June 28, 2019, § 98.0751 Florida Statue was enacted and prohibited these ex-felons (also known as "returning citizens") from voting unless they pay off all legal financial obligations imposed by a court pursuant to a felony conviction even if they cannot afford to pay. We have committed along with local, state, and national partners to help these "returning citizens" attain voter status and to support ongoing litigation surrounding the law's provision. The Public Defender's Office routinely participates in collaborative efforts in our community to assist in sealing and expunging of eligible criminal records and the restoration of Civil Rights lost with a felony conviction. For more information on these processes and to find out if you are eligible, please call 561-355-7655.
Carey Haughwout took office in January of 2001. She graduated with High Honors from Florida State University College of Law in 1983. In 1979, she earned a degree in economics and sociology from New College in Sarasota. She began her career as an associate with a Tallahassee trial firm. From 1985 to 1990, she was an assistant public defender in Tallahassee and Palm Beach County, working her way from misdemeanor to capital cases. She practiced as a private criminal defense attorney in Tallahassee and Palm Beach County for 17 years.
As a leader for poor people in our justice system, Carey has worked with many organizations throughout Florida. Seeking to improve public safety, she works with other court system and policy leaders to enhance effectiveness in our justice system and to improve the quality of life for poor people in our community. Carey has been a member of the Palm Beach County, state, and national Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Criminal Justice Commission, Legal Aid Society, and the Florida Association of Women Lawyers. She chaired the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission's Reentry Task Force from 2008-2016, providing leadership in obtaining more than $4 million in federal funding to assist those returning from incarceration and cutting recidivism rates in half among the clients served. After establishing Reentry as a permanent department in Palm Beach County government with committed ad valorem funding, Carey turned leadership of the task force over to other policy makers. She returned in 2021 as Chair of the Task Force where she continues today.
Peers have recognized Carey's accomplishments many times—including receiving the Palm Beach County Bar Association's Professionalism Award, Palm Beach Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer's Champion of Justice Award, and the Legal Aid Society's Criminal Law Service and Homeless Advocacy awards. Her legal expertise was recognized with the Governor Lawton Chiles' appointment to the Domestic Violence Clemency Panel from 1995-1998, and the Supreme Court of Florida 1997 Appointment to the Special Advisory Committee on Minimum Standards of Competency for Counsel in Capital Cases.