Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has drafted legislation that would expand the state’s “stand your ground law” and withhold state funds from local governments that cut law enforcement budgets, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The “anti-mob” legislation is aimed at cracking down on protests in the wake of widespread unrest following the killing of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer.
Per The Times:
The proposal would expand the list of “forcible felonies” under Florida’s self-defense law to justify the use of force against people who engage in criminal mischief that results in the “interruption or impairment” of a business, and looting, which the draft defines as a burglary within 500 feet of a “violent or disorderly assembly.”
Other key elements of DeSantis’ proposal would enhance criminal penalties for people involved in “violent or disorderly assemblies,” make it a third-degree felony to block traffic during a protest, offer immunity to drivers who claim to have unintentionally killed or injured protesters who block traffic, and withhold state funds from local governments that cut law enforcement budgets.
DeSantis’ proposal would also target counties and municipalities that make “disproportionate funding reductions” to law enforcement agency budgets. DeSantis is framing it as a push against “defunding the police,” a term used in police-brutality protests that became politicized by Republicans throughout the presidential election.
Denise Georges, a former Miami-Dade County prosecutor who has handled stand your ground cases, told The Times: “It allows for vigilantes to justify their actions.”
Georges added: “It also allows for death to be the punishment for a property crime — and that is cruel and unusual punishment. We cannot live in a lawless society where taking a life is done so casually and recklessly.”
Former Miami-Dade prosecutor Aubrey Webb also criticized the proposal.
“It dangerously gives armed private citizens power to kill as they subjectively determine what constitutes ‘criminal mischief’ that interferes with a business,” Webb said. “Someone graffiti-ing ‘Black Lives Matter’ on a wall? Urinating behind a dumpster? Blocking an entrance?”
“The Boston Tea Party members would have been lawfully shot under Florida’s law by the British East India Tea Company,” he said.
The Times noted that DeSantis’ proposal is just that — a proposal. So far, no bills have been filed in either the state House or Senate.
In addition, “no legislators have publicly said they will sponsor the proposal ahead of the 2021 legislative session, which convenes March 2nd. Committees begin meeting in January.”
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