Can I Be Held Criminally Liable for Asking for Vaccine Proof in Florida?

September 8, 2021 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

The New Florida Rule

According to SB 2006, a liability bill signed into law in May by Governor Ron DeSantis, businesses, schools, and government entities can be fined of up to $5,000 per individual and face a separate violation by the Department of Health if they ask to see a customer or member of the public’s vaccine passport. A vaccine passport is proof of vaccination against the COVID-19 virus. DeSantis expressed his disdain of the vaccine passports in March, stating, “it’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in a normal society.” In addition, he believes that vaccine passports could open the floodgates to privacy issues that could result in individuals “handing over medical information to a big corporation.” Although the bill officially went into effect July 1, 2021, this specific rule will officially go into effect on September 16, 2021. Under SB 2006 and despite DeSantis’ disapproval, businesses and governments may mandate the vaccination of their employees. Any business, school, or government entity that violates the rule will be issued a notice, have an opportunity to appeal, and will have 30 days to pay the fine once finalized.

In an interesting federal ruling involving Norwegian Cruise Lines that is currently undergoing appeal by the DeSantis administration, cruise lines are exempt from the fines.

Are Grade Schools Legally Permitted to Require Proof of Vaccination?

Proof of vaccination is not a new concept for students in Florida. In the landmark 1905 case Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the Court held that states have the authority to enact reasonable laws to protect the public health and safety of its citizens. According to Florida Health, K-12 students attending public school must have proof of vaccination for TDaP (Tetanus-diphtheria-accellular pertussis), MMR (Mumps measles rubella), Ipv (inactivated polio vaccine), hepatitis B, and varicella (chickenpox). The issue of whether or not to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations would first require the Centers for Disease Control to add it to its list of childhood immunizations. After this, state legislatures would vote on whether to require it. So for now, schools requiring their students to have proof of a COVID-19 vaccination is not legally permitted.

What About College?

Currently, over 700 private and public colleges throughout the United States require proof of the COVID-19 vaccine. Most colleges require proof of vaccine for diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella, although medical exemptions are “guaranteed by law in all states, and religious exemptions, which may be relatively easy to receive, are permitted by post.” Before the start of the fall semester, the University of Virginia disenrolled 238 students who failed to meet the schools coronavirus vaccine requirement or file for a medical or religious exemption. In May 2021, Nova Southeastern University (NSU),  the first Florida university that said it would require its students to have proof of COVID-19 vaccination, changed its stride. They cited SB 2006 as the root of their change, stating:

“As you know, Nova Southeastern University was hoping for the ability to require COVID-19 vaccinations where possible to further protect the NSU Florida community. However, due to a new Florida law, the university is unable to maintain such a policy. NSU Florida always follows the letter and spirit of the law and we must do that as the law goes into effect on July 1, 2021.

Therefore, we are NOT requiring vaccinations for NSU Florida students, faculty, and staff, as was announced back on April 1, before the legislation was passed. Nonetheless, with additional safeguards in place, NSU Florida has its best opportunity to return to normalcy this fall.”

            Although colleges across Florida are encouraging vaccination and working to mitigate the spread of the variant, college students in Florida are free to choose whether to get vaccinated. However, many schools are requiring additional measures for the unvaccinated such as mandatory COVID testing before or as classes progress. In addition, SB 2006 isn’t preventing schools from requiring their staff get vaccinated. Stetson University is one of them, with full time employees having until September 30 to get fully vaccinated and part time employees having until the start of the Spring 2022 semester to meet the requirement unless they request an exemption. Stetson President Christopher Roellke stated that he expects everyone on campus, including students, to get vaccinated. Stetson Provost and Executive Vice President Noel Painter supported this, stating that Florida law’s prohibition is the only thing preventing them from requiring students to get vaccinated.

This article was written by Sarah Kamide


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