New Florida Laws Tackle 'Cyberharassment,' Sex Trafficking
It will be illegal to post sexually explicit material without the knowledge of people identified in the images, and criminal penalties will increase to try to help curb sex trafficking, as 27 new Florida laws hit the books Thursday.
The bulk of the 232 bills signed by Gov. Rick Scott out of the 2015 legislative session went into effect July 1.
But the new laws taking effect next week will, in part, let municipalities expand where golf carts can be driven, further spell out the requirements when judges issue "no contact" orders and make it illegal to place tracking devices on other people's property without their consent.
Here are some of the laws that will take effect Thursday:
— SB 538 makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to "sexually cyberharass" by posting sexually explicit images of other people without their consent.
The measure, addressing an issue that has become known as "revenge porn," is not as strong as sponsors initially sought, with it requiring the uploaded information to include "personal identification information," such as the name or other information, of the person depicted.
Senate sponsor David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said during the session that the final product creates a "foothold" into the issue. "We're doing the best we can, but we're not doing all we can,'' Simmons said.
— SB 342 makes clear that when a judge imposes a "no contact" condition as part of a person's pretrial release, the order is effective immediately and enforceable for the duration of pretrial release.
The measure, which could help protect domestic-violence victims, also spells out that other than through an attorney, the "no contact" prohibition means contact cannot take place in person, through a telephone, electronically or through a third person.
— HB 465 increases criminal penalties for people who solicit others to commit prostitution. The penalty will go from a second-degree misdemeanor to a first degree misdemeanor on a first offense. A second offense will increase from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.
People convicted of solicitation will also have to perform 100 hours of community service and complete an educational program about the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking. A judge can also impound a person's vehicle if the solicitation sentence includes at least 60 days in jail.
The state during the past few years has tried to crack down on human trafficking, which often involves victims being forced to work as prostitutes.
— HB 467 and HB 469 create public-records exemptions that protect the identity of human-trafficking victims and shield the location of safe houses for victims of sexual exploitation.
— HB 7055 includes a number transportation-related changes — known as a legislative "train."
In part, the measure will allow golf carts to be driven on two-lane county roads if approved by municipalities; require an 18-inch square, red flag on all loads that jut out more than four feet form the back of vehicles; increase the fine from $100 to $500 for a violation of unlawfully displaying vehicles for sale, hire, or rental; and let certified emergency-medical technicians with proper training administer emergency allergy treatment.
Among other things, the law also will allow the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to pay up to $5,000 of the costs of funerals and burials for law-enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
— HB 197 makes it a second-degree misdemeanor for a person to install a tracking device or tracking application on another person's property without the other person's consent. The measure doesn't apply to law-enforcement officers during investigations, the parents or guardians of minors or caregivers of certain elderly or disabled adults.
— HB 201 requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to establish an online training program for law officers about diabetic emergencies.
— SB 1010 makes it illegal to impersonate a firefighter or a fire or arson investigator.
—HB 889 changes the health-care surrogate law so people can designate health-care surrogates to act on their behalf while the people are still competent and able to make decisions. However, if still deemed competent, the individuals' decisions top any contrary decisions of the surrogates.
The bill also will allow parents or legal guardians of minors to name surrogates to act for the minors if the parents or legal guardians cannot be timely contacted to make medical decisions, which includes dental examination and treatment.
— HB 115 requires judge to order public officials to make restitution and perform 250 hours of community service when found misusing their positions.