Last month the Florida Legislature passed HB 1, the so-called anti-riot bill and it was quickly signed by Governor DeSantis who pushed for this bill.
This bill is supposedly to crack down on riots, along with violence and looting, but there are already laws on the books prohibiting riots, violence, and looting with criminal charges for each offense. So why is this legislation needed?
There are some concerning parts of this bill that could give liberal prosecutors the opportunity to arrest someone protesting big government.
HB 1 defines rioting as a public disturbance of at least three people with a “common intent to mutually assist each other in disorderly and violent conduct”. A new crime of aggravated rioting would be created if the disturbance involves 25 or more people and results in “great bodily harm,” property damage over $5,000 or blocks traffic on a public street”. Rioting is a third-degree felony, while aggravated rioting would be classified as a second-degree felony.
You have to be willing to be arrested every time you go out to a protest because you can’t control whether violence might erupt at what was a peaceful protest. Law enforcement would have the discretion to arrest people and charge them with aggravated riot if there are more than 25 people in the protest or riot if more than three.
Another disturbing part of the bill is that it gives the Governor the authority to override law enforcement budgets if they reduce spending. I guess this is in response to the “defund police” movement around the country in response to the George Floyd death, but it seems crazy to let the Governor unilaterally make decisions on local government budgets. I don’t know about you, but I support all government agencies, including law enforcement looking for ways to reduce their budget, why as fiscal conservatives would we object to less spending.
This bill was unnecessary, why not just enforce existing laws to arrest individuals that riot, loot and vandalize? This bill is just grandstanding for the base.