Florida Governor Seeks Tough Penalties for Protestors

In response to the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others, there has been a series of nationwide protests. Specifically, Seattle, Portland, and Minneapolis have housed some of the longest, most charged demonstrations. While the large majority of protests—93 percent—have remained peaceful, some protests have resulted in violence, looting, and ultimately, fatalities.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been one of the most vocal voices against violent protest demonstrations and, in response to a handful of violent occurrences, has crafted one of the most aggressive and comprehensive pieces of legislation to regulate protestor’s rights. The proposed bill, called the Combating Violence, Disorder, and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act, would enforce a dramatic crackdown on protestors who attend violent gatherings—even if they started as a peaceful demonstration. Under the new bill, protestors who block roadways, disrupt restaurants, or destroy monuments could face criminal penalties and, in some cases, felony charges. If you have experienced unjust legal action from your attendance at a protest, it is best to consult with a skilled criminal defense lawyer. 

Governor DeSantis’s Bill Comes After New Tennessee Protest Bill 

Governor DeSantis’s bill follows other protest-related legislation put forth by Republican governors across the country. Specifically, Tennessee’s Republican Governor Bill Lee recently signed new legislation that intensified legal penalties for certain protest-related actions, including making it a felony for protestors to camp on state property. However, DeSantis’s new bill goes even further in its aggressive stance towards protestors. 

New Proposals in the Combating Violence, Disorder, and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act

The proposed bill outlines several aggressive actions that would be deemed legal under new provisions. One of the proposals in the bill would allow drivers and motorists to be waived liability should they happen to injure or kill a protestor—with their vehicle—while “fleeing for safety from a mob.” However, in the bill, the definition of “mob” or “unsafe” is vaguely defined. Additionally, the bill would allow Florida to use RICO laws against organizers of disorderly protests or assemblies. 

DeSantis’s bill would also enforce harsher punishments for protestors who throw objects, harass police officers, or damage property. For example, protestors who engage in these activities could face felony charges and potential jail time. Additionally, under the new bill, protestors who are arrested and sent to jail may not be released on bail until a first court appearance. 

The Response to DeSantis’s Bill

Many Democrats are speaking out in response to some of the aggressive penalties outlined in DeSantis’s new bill. Most of the bill’s criticisms speak to how the legislation would violate protestors’ first amendment rights and the danger of the vague terminology that DeSantis is using to define new rules.  

Many Democrats say that DeSantis’s bill would have a dramatic effect on the attendance at peaceful protests. Under his new bill, DeSantis would penalize protestors who attend peaceful demonstrations that turn violent. Many say this will discourage people from attending protests, as they could fear their participation would be illegal. If DeSantis’s bill comes into effect, many Democrats suspect that most people will choose to stay home instead of attending protests where they could face harsh criminal consequences. 

Another criticism of the bill is the vague language and terminology used to define certain allowances or penalties. For example, the new bill allows motorists to drive through “mobs” if they feel “unsafe.” However, these definitions are loosely defined, and many Democrats are saying the unclear language offers an invitation to homicide to potential hate groups. 

Contact a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have had your rights violated at a protest or been unjustly arrested, contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer. At The Umansky Law Firm, we have dedicated our law practice to representing people who are in a fight for their life—usually against a much larger adversary. Our dedication to success coupled with our effective communication allows us to build strong relationships with our clients. 

With more than 100 years of combined legal experience, our team has the skills and expertise to fight for your rights. To schedule a free consultation, call (407) 228-3838 or complete an online contact form.