Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Wednesday to help keep the location of domestic violence centers anonymous.
The bill (SB 70) will create a new first-degree misdemeanor for those who maliciously publish or disclose any information or image that identifies the location of a domestic violence center. Repeated offenses would be a third-degree felony.
First-degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in prison or a $1,000 fine. Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison or a $5,000 fine.
Currently, Florida law shields identifying information for domestic violence centers, but there is no crime for disclosing the information.
The locations of domestic violence centers are kept secret to provide a confidential safe haven for victims who fear for their safety.
Miami Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia sponsored the bill. She said the legislation stems from stories shared with her from domestic violence staff.
“Multiple domestic centers in Florida have reported drones flying over the confidential shelter, recording video and publishing the information online,” Garcia said.
During discussions in the recent Legislative Session, she also told a story about a woman whose abuser was gang-affiliated and had fellow gang members intimidate her by standing outside the domestic violence center where she was staying.
The measure passed the entire legislative process unanimously.
Last week, DeSantis signed a related measure (SB 68), which passed the Legislature despite opposition from three Senators — Democratic Sens. Lori Berman and Audrey Gibson and Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes. That bill would create a new public record exemption for personal information of domestic violence advocates at certified domestic violence centers.
Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell, despite voting for it, was concerned the bill went a little too far by permanently exempting those records. Brandes suggested creating a time limit on the exemption.
Garcia said advocates need the protection in case they are involved in any future incidents regarding a domestic violence victim and their perpetrator.
Both measures will take effect July 1.