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Bill would make it illegal for people to block emergency scenes gathering personal property

A new bill filed Monday by Rep. Bill Hager of HD 89 would make it illegal to remove personal property from an emergency scene.

The bill, HB 355, creates a new section of the statutes which makes it a third-degree misdemeanor to remove tangible personal property from an emergency scene – defined in the bill as “an area in which there is an imminent danger of death or bodily injury due to a temporary occurrence or situation,” such as an high rise fire.

The practical purpose of the bill is to discourage people from blocking the exits in those situations as they try to gather their own personal property, a press release from Hager’s office states.

“Like most Floridians, I have been horrified by scenes of airplane crashes in which passengers waste time and endanger every passenger’s life in the aisle behind them by stopping leisurely to extract their luggage from the luggage bins,” the release reads – though it doesn’t apply to aircraft emergencies because of FAA restrictions.

If someone causes bodily injury to another person because they’re lingering too long at the scene of an emergency, the offense becomes a first-degree misdemeanor. In the case that the injury is serious, it’s a third-degree felony.

And if a person dies as a result of someone lingering too long at the scene gathering their personal property, they’ll be charged with a second-degree felony.

The bill’s other purpose is to clear a path for first responders rushing in and make it easier for them to help people in need.

“I appreciate the heroic work our first responders do on a daily basis during emergencies and want to help minimize chaos when possible,” Hager is quoted as saying. “For someone to risk the life of those immediately behind them or risk the life of a first responder, for a piece of luggage or some other junk, is frightening, when every second counts.”

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