Retroactivity of New Rules in Florida

In Witt v. State, 387 So. 2d 922 (Fla. 1980), decided in 1980, the Court adopted the Linkletter v. Walker, 381 U.S. 618, 14 L. Ed. 2d 601, 85 S. Ct. 1731 (1965) standards. In that case, we held that a change in the law does not apply retroactively "unless the change: (a) emanates from this Court or the United States Supreme Court, (b) is constitutional in nature, and (c) constitutes a development of fundamental significance." 387 So. 2d at 931. As to consideration (c), the Court stated that most major constitutional changes fall into one of two categories: (1) changes "which place beyond the authority of the state the power to regulate certain conduct or impose certain penalties" and (2) those "which are of sufficient magnitude to necessitate retroactive application as ascertained by the three-fold test of Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293, (1967)and Linkletter" (the Linkletter factors). 387 So. 2d at 929. In Witt, the Court was concerned that an expansive view of retroactivity would undermine the finality of judicial decisions. The Court noted that "the reasons for narrowly limiting the grounds for collateral attack on final judgments are well known and basic to our adversary system of justice." 387 So. 2d at 925. The Court also warned that "the doctrine of finality should be abridged only when a more compelling objective appears, such as ensuring fairness and uniformity in individual adjudications." Id. We "declared our adherence to the limited role for post-conviction relief proceedings, even in death penalty cases." Id. at 927.