Yesterday, Governor DeSantis signed the Combatting Public Disorder Act, which amends numerous Florida Statutes in response to recent demonstrations, and resulting property damage and injuries. This Act creates new criminal offenses and increases criminal penalties for applicable existing offenses. The Act also significantly impacts local governments by: (1) creating a budget appeal process, allowing an appeal of a proposed reduction of the operating budget of a law enforcement agency to the Governor and Cabinet; and (2) waiving sovereign immunity and establishing a new cause of action for unlimited damages against local governments by any person who is killed, injured or suffers property damage as a result of the local government’s failure to provide reasonable law enforcement protection during a riot or unlawful assembly.
SUMMARY OF CHANGES AFFECTING MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENTS
Budget for law enforcement
- The local state attorney or a member of a municipality’s governing body may appeal a municipal budget that reduces funding of a municipal police agency to the Governor and Cabinet (the “Administration Commission”).
- The municipality has 5 working days from receipt of service of the appeal to file a reply with the Governor, after which a budget hearing will be held.
- The Governor shall then submit a recommendation to the Administration Commission, which, within 30 days, shall determine how and whether to modify the budget
- The budget, as approved or modified by the Administration Commission, shall be final.
Damages for not providing reasonable protection during a riot
- The Act creates a duty on municipalities to allow the municipal law enforcement agency to respond appropriately to protect persons and property during a riot or an unlawful assembly based on the availability of adequate equipment.
- If the governing body of a municipality breaches that duty, the municipality is civilly liable for any damages arising from personal injury, wrongful death or property damage proximately caused by the municipality’s breach.
- Sovereign immunity is waived — the damages recoverable under the Act by a person who is killed, injured or suffers property damage is not limited by sovereign immunity caps.
Training of municipal law enforcement agencies
The Act substantially revised several current laws and creates new laws, all of which are effective immediately as of the signing of this bill on April 19th. There is an urgent need for municipal police officers to become familiar with these changes, as they may be called upon to enforce them at any time.
The information contained in this document does not constitute legal advice.