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Linda Stewart, Amy Mercado seek to make flashing a felony

Cite an Orange County case where suspect allegedly got away nine times

State Sen. Linda Stewart and state Rep. Amy Mercado want to make flashing — indecent exposure of sexual organs — a felony in Florida so that law enforcement officers can seek warrants to make arrests after the alleged incidents.

The pair of Orlando Democrats have filed bills this week, Senate Bill 1018 and House Bill 675, to increase the severity of the crime to be a third-degree felony, from the current first-degree misdemeanor.

A news release from Stewart’s office points out that the current legal status requires law enforcement officers to catch a violator in the act in order to make an arrest, while felony status would allow them to seek and obtain an arrest warrant based on other evidence. The release argues that this would allow officers to take action before a suspect has an opportunity to do it again.

“We know that when violators get away with this type of act, they often feel emboldened to continue,” Stewart declared. “We want to give law enforcement the tools they need in order to stop this type of behavior in its tracks.”

The Orange County Sherif’s Office had nine separate cases related to one suspect who repeatedly drove into populated areas, opened his car door, and intentionally exposed his genitals, according to the release.

“This bill will give law enforcement additional tools to act swiftly against those who victimize our residents and visitors with these disturbing lewd acts,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina stated in the release. “We appreciate Sen. Stewart and Rep. Mercado stepping up to help us further protect Floridians.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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