Amid nationwide civil unrest over the past four months over racial inequities in policing and criminal justice, Florida' Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced a new bill that would specifically target offenses committed during massive assemblies that devolve into riotous activity.
The "Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act" would, if passed in the State Legislature, make it a third-degree felony when 7 or more people are assembled and cause damage to property or injury to persons. It would also make it a third-degree felony to obstruct roadways during non-permitted protests, demonstration, or violent and disorderly assemblies.
The bill contains a provision that would protect drivers from liability if they kill or injury somebody when fleeing for safety from a group that has violently and aggressively surrounded their vehicle.
The bill also would make it a second-degree felony (punishable by up to 15 years in prison) to destroy monuments, statues, and other public property during an unlawful assembly.
The bill makes it a first-degree misdemeanor for somebody, during a violent or unlawful assembly, to harass or intimidate people in public places. The bill also attaches RICO (Racketeer-Influenced Corrupt Organizations) liability anyone who organizes or funds a riot.
The bill includes a schedule of increase penalties, including mandatory minimum jail sentences. For instance, striking a police officer, including with a projectile, during a riot would carry a six-month mandatory jail term. Sentencing enhancements would also be imposed for throwing dangerous objects during unlawful assemblies, assault on a LEO (law enforcement officer) or battery on a LEO during an unlawful assembly, and participation in an unlawful assembly if you come from another state.
The bill will be debated and voted upon by the State Legislature. If passed, it would be the first state law in the US to specifically address the recent wave of civil unrest.