Florida — There are 32 new laws set to go into effect on October 1, 2014. Below are some of the most high profile and controversial laws that will take effect.
Pain clinics/Pharmacies: To rein in activity at a growing number of “pill mills” that often too freely dispense pain medication, doctors at the facilities now must actually examine prospective patients. They can only prescribe enough pills for three days (72-hour supply) — for emergencies — 30 days if the patient is under the care of a physician and office visits are well documented. A prescription for a controlled substance listed in Schedule II may not be refilled. Additionally, they cannot advertise that they sell pain pills or name the pills and must register with the state and open their doors to inspections. Failure to comply means the state could revoke a clinic’s registration and close its doors, fine a clinic $5,000 a day, or charge owners and doctors with a felony. This law went into effect in October of 2010, but has been amended for tougher penalties.
Compounding pharmacies that are located in other states, but sell in Florida, will now have a new set of standards and registration requirements. The law is aimed at preventing medical disasters in cases where compounded medicines might have been contaminated. In 2012, an outbreak of fungal meningitis occurred when a Massachusetts pharmacy sold contaminated batches of compounded medicines to other Florida pharmacies. The outbreak killed 48 people. Also in 2012, a former compounding pharmacy in Ocala sold contaminated surgical dye to eye surgeons that blinded patients or damaged their eyes, according to five federal complaints.
Franck’s Compounding Lab, of Ocala, has been sued twice in Los Angeles, once in Las Vegas and twice in New Orleans, for its Brilliant Blue G, a stain used in eye surgery.
In 2009 the pharmacy was also responsible for the deaths of 21 Polo horses after mixing contaminated compounds.
Street racing: Street racers with repeat offenses will face bigger fines. Second violations will result in a fine of at least $1,000. Three or more offenses will mean fines of $2,000 to $5,000 and a possible four-year driver’s license revocation. The bill was named for Luis Rivera Ortega, an Orange County teenager who was riding his bike when he was killed by a street racer doing between 50 mph and 70 mph in a 35-mph zone.
Cyber threats: People who send letters threatening to kill or injure someone, either signed or anonymously, already risk conviction of a second-degree felony. Now legislators have entered the Internet age by adding “electronic communication,” or e-mail, to the statute. Electronic communication also includes Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media outlet. The changes include making threats to drive to someone’s house with the intention of inciting a fight or any other type of threat to cause bodily harm. There are currently several Facebook groups based in Marion County that are monitored by law enforcement.
In 2013, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office arrested a felon after he openly threatened an out-of-state family member on Facebook. The threat was considered credible, therefore he was arrested.
Several law enforcement agencies throughout Florida have created task forces whose jobs are to monitor criminal activity, including threats from one person to another, on social media.
Polk County Sheriff, Grady Judd, has a no tolerance policy in his county for threats of violence on Facebook. In 2013, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, of Lakeland, jumped to her death from the top of an old concrete plant after she was repeatedly threatened and bullied on Facebook. Sheriff Judd arrested both of the teens that were accused of making the threats. Sheriff Judd said the laws for online threats and bullying do not only apply to teens.
Methadone: Someone who sells Methadone, a synthetic pain killer, to a person who later overdoses and dies may now be charged with first-degree murder. Provisions are that the seller is 18 or older, and that the drug, typically used to wean addicts off heroin, is proven to be the actual cause of the overdose. First-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence.
Homeless hate: Offenses against the homeless now will carry enhanced penalties similar to those in effect based on race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. For example, a second-degree misdemeanor would be elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor if committed against a homeless person, and a first-degree misdemeanor would become a third-degree felony. Such re-classifications would result in stricter sentences.
Unborn children: This new law establishes a “crime against unborn children” charge, irrespective of term of pregnancy. (HB 59) calls for people who attack pregnant women to be charged with crimes against unborn children, regardless of the term of pregnancy. This includes domestic violence cases in which an unborn child is harmed. The penalties could also apply to someone that harms an unborn child in a car accident. This law was put into place after a man in Tampa, Florida tricked his girlfriend into ingesting a pill that caused her to have a miscarriage.
Sex offenders: The newly amended sex offender laws are designed to curb sex offenses, including longer sentences and strengthening rules on reporting and registering offenders.
Human trafficking: These new set of laws increase penalties for individuals who profit from the prostitution earnings of others or crimes involving child trafficking. The law also removes the statute of limitations for human trafficking violations. Additionally, the law prohibits any adult theater from employing minors and requires age verification on all employees.
Education: A new house bill stiffens penalties for teachers and other school staff who abuse their power by taking advantage of students in a sexual manner.
Parasailing: This new law requires commercial parasailing operators to track weather conditions, be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard, and limits operation in the vicinity of any airport. This new bill is known as the “White-Miskell Act,” named after 28-year-old Kathleen Miskell, who died in August of 2012 after she fell while parasailing over Pompano Beach. In 2007, Amber White, of Belleview, died after her parasail line snapped, causing her to slam into the roof of a hotel. In Panama City Beach last summer, two teens were critically injured and the incident was caught on video.
“When you see those storm clouds coming up (on the video), and those two young girls slammed against buildings and balconies, and then going up against power lines and finally landing on a SUV, you think why is this happening,” bill sponsor Maria Sachs said after the committee hearing. “That dramatized the need for safety regulations and I think that, unfortunately, that had to happen before a lot of people said, ‘You know what, we need to do this’.”
Impersonating a soldier: People who wear military uniforms to collect donations from the public, usually in camouflage at busy intersections and store-fronts, must now disclose their identity, where the money will go, and what the intended use of solicited money is for. Should a person misrepresent themselves as members of any U.S. military branch by uniform or statement, they could be convicted of a third-degree felony.
In 2014, Ocala Police Officer Diesso, was dispatched to Big Lots located on East SR 40 in reference to solicitors suspected of illegally accepting nonprofit military contributions.
The couple was arrested after they claimed they were part of an organization called the Navy Seal Foundation, but were actually not affiliated at all.
Both fraudsters were dressed in military fatigues.
Read about the Florida “sexting” law here.