Florida bill criminalizing the harassment of working first responders awaiting DeSantis’ signature

A bill criminalizing the harassment of first responders on duty in Florida is awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature after it was approved by the state legislature.Senate Bill 184 would make it illegal for anyone to harass a police officer, correctional probation officer, firefighter or an emergency medical care provider “engaged in the lawful performance of a legal duty” after already receiving a warning not to approach the first responder.The measure was passed by both chambers last month.FLORIDA SENATE PRESIDENT’S HUSBAND DIES AFTER FALLING AT UTAH’S BRYCE CANYON PARKIn the bill, harassment is defined as willfully engaging “in a course of conduct directed at a first responder which intentionally causes substantial emotional distress in that first responder and serves no legitimate purpose.”The bill also specifies that people cannot be within 25 feet of a working first responder after receiving a verbal warning to stay away if they are impeding or interfering with job duties or threatening physical harm.FLORIDA GOV RON DESANTIS SIGNS LAW WITH BIG POTENTIAL IMPACT ON EPSTEIN CASEVolusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said Thursday that he supports the bill as law enforcement agencies are seeing more “aggressive, dangerous behavior” from people hoping to get a reaction from officers.”If there’s a car stop, and you want to stand there across the street and film it, man, have at it. But you don’t come up over the deputy’s shoulder or on a car stop, refuse to comply, and try to bait that deputy into doing something,” Chitwood said, according to FOX 35 Orlando.While he asks that his deputies act professionally, Chitwood added that he will not discipline them for calling a disruptive person a name if it fits their behavior.”I’ll say this clearly. If you get called a [expletive] by one of my deputies, I’m not disciplining them. If that’s what comes out of their mouth and they say you’re acting like an [expletive], so be it,” he said, according to the outlet. “You earned the title.”If signed into law, harassing a first responder would be considered a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida and violators could face a fine of up to $500 or two months in jail.The law would go into effect on Jan. 1 of next year.
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