Note: This article mentions proposed legislation, and is subject to change.
The death of George Floyd in May of this year in the state of Minnesota rocked the nation. It sparked violent protests, calling for equality and police reform. Cities around the country have tried variable approaches to deal with rioting, looting, and property destruction. Locally, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stated, “I will not allow this kind of violence to occur in Florida.” He has taken a strong stance against violence. In September, he drafted a proposed bill that he reports is the “strongest pro-law enforcement, anti-riot, anti-looting legislation anywhere in the country.” If passed, this legislation will expand the self-defense Stand Your Ground statute in Florida. It will add close to a dozen amendments to the current law to defuse protesters’ violence. The proposed legislation is the “Combating Violence, Disorder, and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act.”
The proposed legislation has three components:
- New criminal offenses for rioting, looting, and violence
- Increased penalties
- Citizen and Taxpayer protection measures
1) New criminal offenses for rioting, looting, and violence. Persons will be charged with a third-degree felony if the assembly of seven or more persons causes property damage, injury to others, or obstructs traffic. A driver of an uninvolved vehicle is not liable for a violent protester’s injury or death if they cause an injury when fleeing from the mob. It is a 2nd-degree felony to destroy public property or topple monuments during a violent or disorderly assembly. A protester will be charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor for harassment or intimidation of a person at a commercial business. RICO liability applies to anyone who organizes or funds a violent or disorderly assembly.
2) Increased penalties. There are mandatory minimum jail sentences for striking a law enforcement officer (including with a projectile) during a violent or disorderly assembly, with a penalty of a mandatory minimum six-month jail sentence. There are offense enhancements for crimes, including assault and battery of a law enforcement officer and the participation in a violent or disorderly assembly by an individual from another state.
3) Citizen and taxpayer protection measures. This portion of the proposed law includes prohibiting state grants or aid to any local government that slashes law enforcement agencies’ budgets. It waives the right of a victim of a crime related to a violent or disorderly assembly to sue the government for damages if the local government is grossly negligent in protecting persons and property. It terminates state benefits by state or local government if convicted of participating in a violent or disorderly assembly. There will be no bond or bail permitted until after the first court appearance if charged with a crime related to participating in a violent or disorderly assembly.
Critics of this Bill Question its Constitutionality
Governor DeSantis’ office states that these measures are not meant to discourage peaceful assembly or freedom of speech. However, they are meant to dissuade violent protestors from an assembly. Political activists believe this proposed bill violates civil rights. It is an aggressive move that will scare off peaceful protesters. The ACLU is opposed to this legislation. They believe it violates first amendment rights and is designed to stunt free speech for those fighting against injustice. Activists have voiced that granting immunity to persons who may cause harm or death to a violent protestor justifies vigilantes’ actions. Under these new laws, there is a greater potential for law enforcement to abuse their discretion. Protestors arrested without bail or bond options or with a mandatory minimum jail sentence of six months for striking a law enforcement officer will crowd the jails and expose violators to COVID-19.
The AP Law Group will Relentlessly Defend your Constitutional Rights.
It is imperative to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer during these tumultuous times if you are arrested or investigated for crimes related to a violent or disorderly assembly. While it remains to be seen if this proposed legislation is passed into law, Governor DeSantis hopes to enact these measures ahead of the regular legislative session that begins in March.
Attorneys Tania Alavi and Andrew Pozzuto are passionate about justice for their clients. We aggressively defend against charges, including misdemeanors, felonies, and federal crimes, by any legal means necessary. A criminal record creates many obstacles and life-altering impacts. It impacts employment, driving privileges, right to own firearms, subsequent criminal cases, child custody, immigration rights, and personal relationships.
Our reputation is built on delivering results for our clients in the Ocala and Gainesville, Florida, area. Call for an appointment to discuss your situation at 352-732-9191.