Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took a major stand for the rule of law when he signed House Bill 1, the Combating Public Disorder Act, into law on April 19, 2021. The signing took place at the Polk County Sherriff’s Office with Florida’s legislative leadership and representatives of law enforcement in attendance.
The bill comes in the wake of ongoing violence, rioting, and other forms of civil unrest throughout the United States over the last two years. It increases penalties for existing crimes committed during a violent assembly and protects the communities’ law enforcement officers and victims of these types of acts. The bill also creates specific crimes for mob intimidation and cyber intimidation to ensure that Florida will not be a welcoming place for those wishing to impose their will on innocent civilians and law enforcement by way of mob mentality. Crimes of mob intimidation and cyber intimidation both will become 1st-degree misdemeanors.
The Combating Public Disorder Act also creates new penalties for destroying monuments and historic property, the consequences of which include a 2nd-degree felony and paying restitution for the repairing or replacing of the memorial. The bill is also increasing penalties and rankings for many of these offenses like assault, battery, battery on a law enforcement officer, criminal mischief, burglary, and theft when these crimes are committed during or in furtherance of a riot.
Governor DeSantis said, “In Florida, we are taking an unapologetic stand for the rule of law and public safety. 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.”
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody echoed the governor’s sentiments saying, “We ask law enforcement officers to take an oath to protect and serve. We, as leaders, in turn, have a responsibility to protect them as they ensure order and safety in the communities they serve. We respect the right of people to peaceably assemble and make their views known on issues of public policy, but rioting, violence, and destruction of property cannot and will not be tolerated in Florida.”
The governor praised Florida’s elected state leaders for their sense of urgency in getting the legislation to him for enactment so quickly.
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