A Closer Look at The Constitutionality of Florida COVID-19 Arrests and Charges
There have been a number of serious criminal allegations made by both federal and state authorities in connection with COVID-19 around the country, including here in Florida. From charging individuals who coughed on groceries with threats to use biological agents and felony terrorism, to accusing business owners who sell face masks with violating the Defense Production Act, and prosecuting those who have received COVID-19-related loans with making with false statements, theft of government property, money laundering, and wire fraud, there is no question that, at times, law enforcement and prosecutors have stretched certain laws beyond what they were intended to cover.
The Department of Justice and state US Attorneys’ Offices have made it clear that they are taking fraud, in particular, very seriously. In July, a Florida family known as the “Genesis II Church of Health and Healing” was arrested and charged by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida with conspiracy to violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, criminal contempt, and conspiracy to defraud the US for allegedly manufacturing, advertising, and selling “Miracle Mineral Solution” to prevent and cure COVID-19. According to reports, the product contained a toxic combination of sodium chlorite and water, which, when ingested together, creates chlorine dioxide, or bleach. The defendants allegedly instructed consumers to ingest it and reports were received of people becoming seriously ill as a result, in some cases having to be hospitalized and/or even dying after consuming the product. The defendants have also been accused of trying to sell this same product previously as a cure for such other ailments as Alzheimer’s, autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. The US had previously filed a civil case against the family, ordering them to stop distributing the product, and claims that family members violated court orders in refusing to do so.
Arrests & Charges That Clearly Violate Our Constitutional Rights
Aside from press covering more extravagant incidents like these, many have been arrested and charged for simply making statements about the pandemic, which raises a number of questions about First Amendment free speech rights. For example, prosecutors have brought charges against some who have falsely claimed on social media to have tested positive for COVID-19. However, whether or not public speech is determined to be false or not, the US Supreme Court has already declared that, in order to criminalize it, there must be a specific, identifiable victim or a great likelihood of harm involved, and this does not include statements posted on social media, making such arrests unconstitutional.
If You Are Facing Charges, Contact The Best in Florida Criminal Defense Representation
If you are facing fraud charges here in Florida, it is crucial that you work with the best criminal defense representation possible, as The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and others are taking these charges extremely seriously.
The Baez Law Firm can assist you in your case. Contact our Orlando criminal defense lawyers today for a free phone consultation to find out how we can help.