New Florida Bills Would Punish Those Who Stand and Film Police After Warning

February 28, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

HB 11, titled “Impeding, Provoking, or Harassing Law Enforcement” was originally filed on January 22, 2022. Its companion bill, SB 1872, was introduced January 18, 2022, and both are facing backlash. So, what do these bills say, and how would their implementation conflict with existing Florida law?

HB 11 & SB 1872

Republican representative Alex Rizo, from Hialeah, Florida, filed HB 11 which would create a new statute, Section 843.31. Republican Senator Aaron Bean from Jacksonville, Florida, filed SB 1872, an identical bill. This new statute would criminalize approaching a law enforcement officer after being warned not to. Specifically, it would be unlawful for any person, after receiving a warning from a law enforcement officer not to approach, to violate such a warning and remain within 30 feet of the law enforcement officer who is engaged in the lawful performance of any legal duty with the intent to:

  1. Interrupt, disrupt, hinder, impede, or interfere with the law enforcement officer’s ability to perform such duty;
  2. Provoke a physical response from the law enforcement officer; or
  3. Directly or indirectly harass the law enforcement officer

Violating this prospective law would be a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail, a $500 fine, and six months of probation. If passed, both bills would go into effect on October 1, 2022.

This bill follows a whirlwind of contentious Florida legislation aimed at relieving tension between the public and law enforcement. That tension engulfed our country in 2021 after the Black Lives Matter Movement took shape and caused significant conflict. The Black Lives Matter Movement is a political and social movement aimed at protesting police brutality and racially motivated violence as a result of systematic racism and inequality. To read more about the Black Lives Matter movement, visit our page here.

This conflict resulted in Ron DeSantis passing Florida’s anti-riot bill, legislation that would criminalize even peaceful protests and destroy the fundamental first amendment right that, in this country, has abolished slavery, established women’s suffrage, and recognized legal protections for the LGBTQ+ community, just to name a few. HB 11 and SB 1872 have an eerily similar silencing effect and invoke similar first amendment concerns as the anti-riot bill, as it criminalizes being a bystander, and therefore makes it incredibly difficult to have eyewitness accounts or video evidence of injustice. This possibility is especially dangerous when you recall that the video recorded by a bystander was the primary evidence used to hold Derek Chauvin accountable when he murdered George Floyd by kneeling on his neck and back for over 9 minutes.

To read more about Florida’s anti-riot bill, visit our page here. Further, to read about the controversial legal battle the bill has faced, click here.

Current Law

In Florida, you are legally allowed to record police if you are in a public space and if recording them does not interfere with them conducting police activity. The implementation of HB 11 and SB 1872 would operate as an exception to this rule, as they would ultimately allow law enforcement to warn individuals to stop recording them and if they remain, to hold them criminally liable under the excuse that the being recorded was interfering with their ability to perform their duties. These bills directly go against the goals of many law enforcement agencies that are hoping to strengthen relationships with their communities through transparency. Tallahassee Police Department is one of these agencies, which fully endorsed the creation of the Tallahassee Bystander App, a mobile phone app that allows the public to record their interactions with police and have those interactions reviewed by a Citizens’ Police Review Board. The overwhelming goal of this app is to increase police accountability and build trust through collaboration and communication with the community. To read more about the law behind recording the police in Florida, visit our blog page here. In addition, to read more about Tallahassee Police Department’s bystander app, visit our page here.

Although encouraging strides are being made to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and citizens, HB 11 and SB 1872 would bring them to a complete halt.

These bills are framed as simply allowing law enforcement officers to perform their legal duties without interference when in reality, they offer law enforcement officers the ability to never be held accountable, as individuals will be threatened legally when they see injustice in front of them and attempt to intervene, as well as prevented from recording that injustice to hold law enforcement accountable in the future.

Written by Sarah Kamide

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