Enhanced penalties for harassing or threatening official personnel signed into law

Civil servants have become targets of increased polarization and outrage.

Threatening justices, judicial assistants, clerks of court and clerk personnel with death or serious bodily harm will soon come with increased penalties.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a measure (HB 67) into law Monday that makes it a first-degree misdemeanor for threatening those officials of the court and official document handlers, along with their families. They will join a list that already includes law enforcement personnel, State Attorneys, Assistant State Attorneys, firefighters, judges and elected officials and their families.

Second offenses constitute a felony of the third degree, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine and five years of probation. The new law also makes harassing all those public officials a misdemeanor of the first degree, which could mean a year in jail, one year of probation and a $1,000 fine.

Democratic Rep. Mike Gottlieb, who filed the bill, said it’s a reaction to the increasingly degraded interaction these personnel are experiencing from the public as they carry out their duties.

“There are limits to what is protected speech and this is what this bill is about,” said Gottlieb, who works as defense lawyer when he’s not in Tallahassee.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office and an Assistant State Attorney brought the problem to his attention, he said. In one instance, someone called court personnel 100 times in eight hours, he said.

“I think we’ve seen a decline in what is acceptable speech behavior,” Gottlieb said, attributing his thinking to a confluence of events.

The increasing perils of being in the public eye have been widely discussed, including a Princeton University announcement last November of a tracking project. Increasing political polarization has been to blame, along with the ripple effects of questions raised about the outcome of the 2020 election and anxiety about the pandemic, according to reports.

The pandemic added to the number of cases languishing unresolved and public discourse began to deteriorate in 2016, Gottlieb said. That’s the same year President Donald Trump was elected.

The bill passed unanimously in both chambers. It goes into effect in October.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • Dont Say FLA

    June 6, 2023 at 8:29 am

    If you need any further proof of Ron’s fascism, here you go. Ron apparently plans to lock everyone up that they don’t agree with if any folks dare to voice their opposition to them. That’s our Thin Skinned Ron. Exempting themself from laws that limit their own actions (Resign to Run, Sunshine Laws, Human Trafficking, etc etc etc), but definitely not exempting themself from this law because the plan is to leverage this law against anyone that opposes him.

    • So it begins

      June 6, 2023 at 9:11 am

      Why do you keep punching yourself in the face, Rhonda? Why do you keep punching your self in the face? Rhonda, why do you keep on punching yourself in your face? Why do you keep hitting yourself in the face? Why you keep on punching your own face? Rhonda why? Why on earth do you keep on with the all punching yourself in the face?
      Is that sufficient harassment? Bring it, Rhonda! Bring it.

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  • Justice_101

    June 6, 2023 at 9:27 am

    I hope this applies to the Moms for Liberty followers who harass and threaten teachers and school board members!

  • tom palmer

    June 6, 2023 at 9:54 am

    The bill probably doesn’t go far enough to rein in these yahoos.
    Public employees should not face threats for simply doing their jobs.

  • Impeach Biden

    June 6, 2023 at 10:07 am

    Well he just lost me.

    Government Employees are The Enemy, and if you’re not harassing them, punching them in the face, or shooting at them, you’re a COMMUNIST!

    Go back to China, Ron!

Comments are closed.


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