Tallahassee, FL - A new act proposed by Governor Ron DeSantis looks to add new criminal offenses for rioting, increase pre-existing penalties and prevent state municipalities from defunding their police forces.
As laid out in the proposed "Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act," individuals can now face a 3rd degree felony if 7 or more people are involved in an assembly that causes damage or injuries. Protestors can also face a 3rd degree felony if traffic is obstructed during a demonstration.
With this legislation, drivers are also cleared of any liability if someone is injured or killed while "fleeing for safety from a mob." Monuments are also protected under the proposed act. Anyone caught "toppling" or destroying any monuments can face a 2nd degree felony.
And those who organize or fund a "violent or disorderly assembly" are liable to face federal charges related to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
Demonstrators can face a minimum 6 month mandatory jail sentence if they strike any law enforcement during a demonstration. Enhancements will also be placed onto existing charges if they throw an object that strikes a civilian or officer. And, anyone who is not a resident from Florida could face an enhanced penalty if they are arrested during an assembly.
Arrestees can also lose state benefits and be made ineligible for state or local government employment if they are convicted of participating in a riot.
The act also goes beyond setting new rules for protestors and demonstrators. According to the proposed legislation, the state will withhold and prohibit any state grants or aid to "any local government that slashes the budget for law enforcement services."
Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood took to Facebook following the announcement of the legislation to show his support for the proposal.
"All of us in law enforcement are committed to the safety of every protestor, regardless of politics," said Sheriff Chitwood. "But we will not stand by and allow lives to be threatened or property destroyed by a few extremist actors on any side."