April 19, 2021
Moments ago, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed an “anti-riot” bill into law.
DeSantis signed the bill, HB 1, during a 10 a.m. press conference with Florida lawmakers and law enforcement officials at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office’s headquarters in Winter Haven. He did not take questions after the signing.
The law went into effect immediately.
The bill, which covers 61 pages, makes several changes to Florida criminal and administrative law, and will:
- Make it more difficult for cities and counties to reduce funding for law enforcement, allowing local elected officials to challenge those budget decisions, and giving the state power to approve or amend the local budget
- Allow those local governments to be sued if they fail to stop a riot
- Define “riot” as a violent public disturbance involving 3 or more people acting with common intent resulting in injury to others, damage to property, or the imminent danger of injury or damage
- Enhance penalties for people who commit crimes during a riot
- Create a new second-degree felony called an “aggravated riot,” which occurs when the riot has more than 25 participants, causes great bodily harm or more than $5,000 in property damage, uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon, or blocks roadways by force or threat of force
Florida State Sen. Danny Burgess (R), who sponsored the legislation, said he felt this framework was needed to draw a distinction between peaceful and violent behavior.
“Not only did we do that to put the public on notice as to what constitutes a riot, but also to make it clear to both protester and law enforcement where that line in the law is drawn,” said Burgess.