Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Florida House Bill 801

Update: The Naturist Action Committee (NAC) came out of Feb 7th with an alert on this proposed legislation. They suggest we be aware of the situation but refrain from making contacts at this moment while talks and contacts are being made. If it should become appropriate a grassroots campaign can be started later. From the NAC Alert:


Individual naturists, clubs and groups can be a tremendous asset in dealing with legislation. However, conditions are NOT PRESENTLY APPROPRIATE for making contact with lawmakers on this matter. Please wait.

NAC believes you should be advised and informed, but this is a case in which premature action could be damaging. Watch for further NAC Action Alerts, Advisories and Updates on this topic.

AANR also has a legislative tracking service called CAPWIZ that you may want to check out as a further venue for issues relating to nudists . . . though tracking of state legislative issues is limited.

Rep. Snyder (R-Fla) is at it again, introducing practically the same legislation at the behest of Martin County Sheriff Bob Crowder, Rep Snyder's former boss in the Martin County Sheriff's Department. In fact, the proposed bill, Florida House Bill 801, 2008 Session reads word for word with the previously submitted and 'dead on second reading' House Bill 269 from the 2007 House Session . . . with the exception that Rep Snyder has added provisions for warrantless arrest of nudists and naturists enjoying Florida's great clothing-optional beaches, primarily Haulover but also Playalinda on the Canaveral National Seashore further north.

Haulover Beach

The proposed legislation reads (in pertinent part):

Section 2. Section 800.03, Florida Statutes, is amended to

800.03 Exposure of sexual organs.--
(1)(a)1. Except as provided in paragraph (b), a person who
exposes or exhibits his or her
It is unlawful to expose or
exhibit one's sexual organs in public or on the private premises
of another, or so near thereto as to be seen from such private
premises, in a vulgar or indecent manner, or is to be naked in
public except in any place provided or set apart for that
purpose commits . Violation of this section is a misdemeanor of
the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s.

2. Any person who violates subparagraph 1. and who has
twice previously been convicted of a violation of subparagraph
1. or s. 800.02(1)(a)1. commits a felony of the third degree,
punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

(b) A person who exposes or exhibits his or her sexual
organs in violation of paragraph (a) on or within 1,000 feet of
the real property comprising:

1. A child care facility, as defined in s. 402.302, that
is in compliance with the signage requirements of s.

2. A public or private elementary, middle, or secondary
school between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight; or

3. A state, county, or municipal park, a public beach, a
community center as defined in s. 893.13(1)(c), or a publicly
owned recreational facility at any time

commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in
72 s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

Words stricken are deletions; words underlined are additions. Red text is my own emphasis.
To quote from the NAC Alert on this same issue last year:

If Section 800.03 has been interpreted by Florida courts as applying only to lewd exposure, why should naturists see it as their issue when penalties are increased for violations in that section of the law?

Florida naturists generally understand the delicate nature of the existing judicial protection associated with 800.03. Even with favorable case law that dates back more than thirty years, overzealous enforcement officers occasionally feel justified in using the statutory language alone to bust someone for simple nudity under 800.03. It happens. And when it happens, a naturist must mount a legal defense against a misdemeanor charge.

Raising the penalty for 800.03 to the felony level, even under limited circumstances, makes these enforcement "misfires" a much more chilling prospect. But worse than that, proposed subtle changes to the wording of 800.03 that are included in House Bill 269, Senate Bill 2058 and other legislation may provide an excuse for a new judicial examination of the statute, perhaps diminishing the prospect of continued judicial protection.

Naturists should be very concerned about this legislation.
What is new this year is that Rep Snyder has added a provision to allow warrantless arrest of those violating this proposed amendment to Florida Statute 800.03:

Section 3. Subsection (7) of section 933.18, Florida
Statutes, is amended to read:

901.15 When arrest by officer without warrant is
lawful.--A law enforcement officer may arrest a person without a
warrant when:

(16) There is probable cause to believe that the person
has unlawfully exposed or exhibited his or her sexual organs in
public in violation of s. 800.03.

The problems I have with this proposed amendment, and all of Rep Snyder's previous attempts to make 800.03 more onerous, is the nebulous language of 'vulgar' and 'indecent', though the courts will get involved in defined that language in terms of the Supreme Court's Miller Test. Like last year's Bill 269, this latest incarnation as Bill 801 takes a misdemeanor charge and ups the ante for a second or subsequent violation to a felony charge . . . frightening for naturists to take to the beaches of Florida.

Like Bill 269, public beaches statewide are covered by the 'exposure' or nudity aspect of the bill . . . potentially threatening the status of Haulhover Beach.

The third problem I have is with the warrantless arrest for nudity.

I expect that both NAC and AANR will put out alerts soon on this repetitive piece of legislative garbage. Time to gear up our letter-writing and phone-calling skills to let Florida legislators know how misguided and unnecessary this bill is.

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