Can I Get Arrested for Messing with a Monument in Florida?
September 7, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense Social Share
After George Floyd died in 2020, there was national outrage that took to the streets in month-long protests. One of the responses during these protests was to deface or destroy Confederate monuments across the U.S. that many claimed represented racist ideologies.
In April 2021, Florida’s governor decided to pass a new law that would protect these controversial monuments, and potentially put anyone who violated the laws into prison. We will provide information on the new law and what penalties arise if an individual were to mess with any of the monuments in Florida.
2021 New Bill
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed new laws into action in April 2021 in light of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. Under the new bill titled, “Combating Public Disorder Act,” Gov. DeSantis has now made it a felony to topple or deface a monument in the state of Florida. Florida Statute section 872.02 now defines injuring or removing a tomb or monument as when an individual knowingly and willfully destroys, mutilates, defaces, injures, or removes a tomb, monument, gravestone, burial mound, or other monument containing human remains or artifacts.
If an individual violates the new law and causes damages to a monument or grave, it can now result in a third-degree felony. The penalties for violating the new law can result in up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
The penalties are more severe for knocking over or destroying a monument, which is upped to a second-degree felony. The penalties for this type of violation can result in up to a $10,000 fine and up to fifteen years in prison.
The new bill also discusses the penalties that can arise from participating in an “aggravated riot,” which is described as a “public disturbance involving assembly of three or more persons who act with a common intent to assist each other in violent and disorderly conduct.”
To read more about the anti-riot law, find our blog post about it here.
What Constitutes as a Monument
The bill defines a “memorial” as any marker that, “honors or recounts the military services of any past or present.”
Since the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2020, there have been 143 Confederate symbols removed across the United States. However, there are still over 1,600 Confederate symbols across the nation.
In Florida, there are still fifty-four Confederate monuments that still stand. Since the BLM protests, there have been sixteen monuments removed, or 35% of the total monuments removed.
After the bill was passed, ACLU’s executive director, Micah Kubic, posted a tweet calling the bill “racist, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic.”
“The bill,” Kubic continued, “was purposely designed to embolden the disparate police treatment we have seen over and over again directed towards Black and brown people who are exercising their constitutional right to protest.”
However, Governor DeSantis said his approach was to “take an unapologetic stand for the rule of law and public safety.”
The following is a statement from Gov. DeSantis:
“We are holding those who incite violence in our communities accountable, supporting our law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to keep us safe, and protecting Floridians from the chaos of mob violence. We’re also putting an end to the bullying and intimidation tactics of the radical left by criminalizing doxing and requiring restitution for damaging memorials and monuments by rioters.”
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
If you or a loved one has been accused of destroying or defacing a monument in Florida, it is in your best interest to seek out the legal advice of a skilled criminal defense attorney in your area. A guilty conviction can lead to severe consequences, such as expensive fines and imprisonment.
The best way to protect your freedom is to build a strong defense for your case. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients across the state for various criminal charges. Call us today for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.
Written by Karissa Key