New Florida Bill Will Make Disclosing a Domestic Violence Shelter a Misdemeanor

A new bill in Florida might make disclosure of a domestic violence shelter a felony. Previously, there were no protections for victims in these shelters, and many shelter employees have testified to the need for more safety measures. Keep reading for more information.

Why Is the Bill Necessary?

Shelter staffers have reported countless incidents where an abuser would wait for the victim to walk outside and harass them or try to abduct them from the premises. Others have observed drones flying above the shelters that collect location information which and post it online.

These practices are extremely harmful to the victims at these shelters and jeopardize volunteers' and staffers' safety. Outside of a restraining order, which is not guaranteed, police can do nothing to stop harassment in these situations.

According to the bill's supporters, this legislation is necessary to add additional protections for domestic violence and abuse victims. Florida requires the location of safe houses and shelters to be confidential, but unless this bill passes, there are no penalties for disclosure by someone other than an employee.

What Are the Penalties?

If this bill passes, the penalties for breaking the law are as follows:

  • First offense for unlawful disclosure: one year in jail and a $1,000 fine
  • Second offense for unlawful disclosure: five years in jail and a $5,000 fine

First offenders would be charged with a misdemeanor and second offenders with a felony. More specific information regarding the penalties for disclosing the location of a shelter won't be accessible unless the bill passes.

Whether it is a state or federal bill, the provisions in any proposed legislation often change as it passes through the various stages of the legal process. There is also talk of a second bill that would protect shelter workers from danger and harassment.

Will the Penalties Be Retroactive?

So far, there has not been specific mention of penalizing people retroactively. If you have disclosed the location of a shelter or attempted to gain access unlawfully, you may need to speak with an attorney about preemptive measures to avoid a complicated situation. Domestic violence charges can be damaging, and adding another criminal charge to your record under the new bill could be devastating.

Also, keep in mind that the statute of limitations prevents prosecutors from filing charges related to old crimes. This could prevent the bill from working retroactively altogether.

The Florida statute of limitations is as follows:

  • First degree felonies: one year
  • Second and third-degree felonies: three years
  • First degree misdemeanors: two years
  • Second-degree misdemeanors and minor violations: one year

Key Takeaways

Regardless of whether the bill passes or not, it is essential to understand how it could affect you if you've been accused of domestic violence. The court can hold disclosing the location of a shelter against you in addition to previous domestic violence charges. It's also unclear how comprehensive the bill will be and if it will be retroactive.

The Law Offices of Phillip T. Ridolfo, Jr. will continue to follow this bill as the situation develops.


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