Florida's new "anti-riot act", CS/HB1 Combating Public Disorder

You can read the law here: https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=_h0001er.docx&DocumentType=Bill&BillNumber=0001&Session=2021

The Palm Beach Post summarizes it like so,

"Among many things, the “Combating Public Disorder” law:

  • Allows the state to circumvent local authority and punish municipalities that attempt to reduce or eliminate funding for law enforcement
  • Allow businesses damaged or destroyed in lootings or riots to sue municipalities that don’t provide law enforcement protection
  • Increases legal charges for people who assault anyone, particularly law enforcement, or damage property during a riot
  • Revises the prohibition on obstructing traffic by standing on the street
  • Prohibits protesters from using or threatening to use imminent force against another person
  • Requires a person arrested for rioting to be held in custody until their first appearance in court
  • And prohibits defacing, injuring or damaging a memorial or historic property, including flags"

The politics behind this bill are nasty, but I’m more concerned about the effects of the law itself than the politics behind it.

One grip of mine is the state’s new stranglehold on the municipalities’ law enforcement budgets. Whenever a municipality tries to reduce or eliminate law enforcement expenses, a state attorney or a member of the municipal governing body may petition the executive branch of the state (a commission consisting of the Governor and his Cabinet, all elected statewide) to modify the municipality’s law enforcement budget. Does that sound like a conflict of interest to you?

I think it will prevent cost cutting measures at a local level. I don’t think the state needs to preempt the municipality’s budget; the state has other, more appropriate tools in the event that some particular municipality actually does shirk its law enforcement duty. For example declaring a state of emergency and sending in the guard, or in the less extreme, leveraging other sources of income. The civil liability provision does a great deal to dissuade a municipality from neglecting its law enforcement duties, at least during a riot. If the municipality wants to divert some police funding to firefighting, EMS, or some novel mental health response team, I don’t see why the state should step in.

I disagree with introducing a victim’s conviction for rioting as an affirmative defense in civil suits for personal injury, wrongful death, and property damage. Self defense is already an affirmative defense, so the only thing I see happening is further punishing rioters (or their next of kin) for participating in a riot by denying relief in civil court. Maybe I’m just not understanding how that would work.

I don’t think it is wise to enter a statutory requirement that people arrested for various riot-related crimes remain incarcerated until the bail hearing. The determination to hold in custody or issue a citation, at least for misdemeanors, should made by the professional judgement of local police, who necessarily have limited resources and are able to react to individual circumstances.

As written the law requires municipalities to do their best to arrest all rioters and hold them all in custody until bail is set. Any town with less holding capacity than rioters will find it impossible to comply with those directives. I’m not in favor of impossible laws.

I don’t see any problem with the changes to the crime of obstructing public streets, highways, and roads; the reclassification of assault and burglary as more severe crimes during a riot; the new crime of “mob intimidation”, which basically reads like coercion by two or more people; harsher sentencing for people convicted of battery upon a law enforcement officer; vandalism of memorials or historic property >$200 being reclassified as a third degree felony; the new crime of doxxing; the new definitions of affrays, riots, aggrevated riots, inciting a riot, and aggrevated inciting a riot; and finally harsher sentencing for grave robbers during a riot.

So, there are my opinions. What are yours?

~Max

Who does the most doxxing these days?

Does Florida have any laws preventing police officers from setting bail? Around here, bail can be set at ‘nothing’, and police are required to present people to a bail judge promptly, but there is no law preventing police officers from bailing people “on their own recognizance” – just union rules and operating procedures.

That would create an operational difficulty – accepting bail generally means signing a statement – but no worse than the operational difficulty of jailing people.

This is the law preventing police from doing that for certain riot-related crimes. It’s highly unusual.

~Max

Your description above does not support that assertion. Police officers do not normally make bail decisions. The release /proceed summarily / proceed on indictment decision that police officers normally make is not a bail decision.

Sometimes a bail decision is made by a bail magistrate, or by a senior officer. It always involves bail being offered and being accepted, which is not the same as ‘releasing’ or ‘not arresting’.

Giving someone bail is a specific act. Requiring bail is not the same as prescribing who can give bail, and under what circumstance. It has specific legal consequences. It is certain that only some people are authorized to witness the acceptance of bail in the way required to create the legal obligation. Who is authorized to take sworn statements will depend on the jurisdiction.

This law requires police to hold the arrestee over until a judge sets bail, whereas normally the police have the option of issuing a citation and procuring a promise to appear in court in lieu of detainment. The language is pretty consistent for multiple riot-related offenses,

“A person arrested for a violation of this section shall be held in custody until brought before the court for admittance to bail”

“may not be released until the person appears before a committing magistrate at a first appearance hearing”

~Max

But that doesn’t say that they must be arrested in the first instance. The police could issue a citation, no? This is also an unusual procedure to me as around here police do not set bail. They have the option to issue a citation on a promise to appear for any misdemeanor offense (except domestic violence) and shall issue such a citation for a minor traffic offense.

However, once you are arrested, you aren’t going anywhere until you see a magistrate and the magistrate sets bail.

This bill appears to me the very essence of “there must be those for whom the law protects but doesn’t bind, and those for whom the law binds but does not protect”.

Obviously BLM would fall into the latter category, according to modern Republicans on office. They don’t believe (based on their rhetoric and bills like this one) that protesters against police violence should be protected by the law.

If the person is transported from the scene of the riot to the police office against their will, that person was arrested. I don’t see the utility in handing out citations on-scene when police are trying to quell an active riot. A person pulled aside could simply refuse to identify themself (or better, refuse to sign anything) until they are in the presence of a lawyer.

Under the Florida Criminal Procedures Rule 3.125 both the arresting and booking officers can issue notices to appear. As I understand it the sections I quoted prevent the booking officer from issuing that notice for riot-related misdemeanors.

~Max

To clarify, these are mob intimidation and unlawful assembly.

~Max