Florida Governor Announces Legislation That Criminalizes Protesting
In late September, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced new legislation here in Florida that would create new criminal offenses and penalties for those who “participate in disorderly assemblies,” or rather, punish those who protest. Titled the “Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act,” some text of the bill is highly questionable in terms of violating citizens’ basic constitutional rights, such as the right to peaceably assemble, and arguably criminalizes our basic right to protest. It also arguably violates employment laws by proposing to bar employment for those convicted of participating in disorderly or violent assemblies. Below, we discuss some of these provisions based on the new penalties that have been created for them
The legislation imposes RICO liability on anyone who organizes or funds a “disorderly or violent assembly.”
1st Degree Misdemeanors
The bill makes it a 1st degree misdemeanor to simply participate in a disorderly or violent assembly as well as to “harass or intimidate” someone at a public accommodation.
2nd Degree Misdemeanor
The legislation makes it a 2nd degree felony to destroy public property during a disorderly or violent assembly.
3rd Degree Felonies
The bill makes it a 3rd degree felony to obstruct traffic during an “unpermitted” demonstration, protest, or disorderly or violent assembly (noting that a driver is not liable for any death or injury caused by fleeing from a mob for the sake of their safety), as well as when seven or more individuals are involved in any assembly where someone is injured or damage is caused to property.
Mandatory Minimum Jail Sentencing
The bill also provides for a six-month mandatory minimum jail sentence for anyone who strikes a law enforcement officer (including with an object) during a disorderly or violent assembly.
One of the more disturbing aspects of the proposed legislation is that it provides for offense enhancements – without providing any specificity as to what this means, exactly (i.e. whether there will be specific limits put in place, or whether this will be entirely left up to a judge’s discretion, etc.) – for those participating in disorderly or violent assemblies if they are from out of state, as well as for those who throw any object during the assembly that hits a civilian or officer, or anyone who commits assault or battery of an officer during such an assembly.
Eliminates Bail or Bond
If someone is charged with participating in disorderly or violent assembly, the bill eliminates the possibility of bail or bond until their first appearance in court and creates a rebuttable presumption against bail or bond after first court appearance.
Goes After Funding & Employment—Illegally
The legislation also prohibits any state aid or grants to any local government that “slashes” the budget for law enforcement and opens them up to being sued by “victim[s] of crime[s] related to violent or disorderly assembl[ies]” for damages if their local government has been “grossly negligent” in protecting them and/or their property (while failing to define “grossly negligent”). It also bars local and state governments from employing anyone convicted of participating in a disorderly or violent assembly and terminates any state benefits that they receive. However, federal law prohibits employers from putting in place any job applicant screening that results in discrimination based on criminal history if it ends up placing any protected group at a disadvantage, therefore it is highly unlikely that local and state government employers could legally use a question regarding previous convictions for disorderly conduct as justification for turning away job applicants.
If You Have Any Questions or Concerns About Disorderly Conduct or Any Criminal Charges in Florida, Contact Florida’s Top Legal Representation
If you have any questions or concerns about your civil rights, charges for disorderly conduct, or any other criminal charges, contact the Orlando criminal defense attorneys of The Baez Law Firm for a free consultation to find out how we can use our many years of experience and top-notch investigators to ensure that your rights are protected.