NAC Advisory
Florida Legislation
March 11, 2007

Resources

TEXT OF LEGISLATION

EXISTING STATE LAW

From the Toni Egbert Naturist Law Library of the Naturist Education Foundation ...
RELEVANT COURT CASES

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DATE:    March 11, 2007
SUBJECT: Florida Legislation 
TO:      All naturists and other concerned individuals

Dear Naturist,

The Naturist Action Committee (NAC) wishes to make you aware of significant new information concerning legislation in the state of Florida. This NAC Advisory updates the NAC Advisory of January 21 that focused on House Bill 269, but it also includes information on several other Florida legislative bills that are of direct concern to naturists.

IMPORTANT: NAC IS NOT CALLING FOR YOUR ACTION AT THIS TIME

NAC believes you should be advised and informed, but this matter is not yet at the point at which your specific action will be most effective. Please wait for the proper time. Watch for further NAC Action Alerts, Advisories and Updates on this topic.

DISCUSSION

Florida naturists are faced with a troubling array of threatening legislation in 2007. Even before the legislative session officially began on March 6, state lawmakers in Tallahassee were already lining up to file bills that they hoped would receive quick consideration.

Most of the threats to naturists come from bills that seek to modify Section 800.03 of the Florida Statutes and to increase the penalties that are attached to that law. Section 800.03 addresses the exposure or exhibition of sexual organs in a public place. Based on a fragile interpretation of the existing wording of the law, 800.03 has been historically held by Florida Courts to make such exposure illegal only when it is done in a lewd manner.

Local enforcement authorities in Martin County, Florida, are behind some of the legislation. Martin County Sheriff Robert Crowder has determined that men who masturbate and have sex at public locations in the county are not being disposed of quickly enough.

Existing law allows individuals who are engaged in such activities to be charged and prosecuted. Punishments presently begin with a misdemeanor and escalate rapidly upon subsequent convictions. But Sheriff Crowder believes the current graduated penalties fail to lock folks away quickly enough. He wants the evildoers imprisoned for years as felons on the very first conviction, and he has determined that Section 800.03 is the proper place in the law for such a frightening escalation of punishment. State Representative Bill Snyder (R-Stuart) is a freshman legislator who formerly worked as a law enforcement officer in the Martin County Sheriff's Department, under Crowder. Snyder's House Bill 269 proposes that Sheriff Crowder's wish list be made state law.

WHY IS THIS A NATURIST ISSUE?

If Section 800.03 has been interpreted by Florida courts as applying only to lewd exposure, why should naturists see it as their issue when penalties are increased for violations in that section of the law?

Florida naturists generally understand the delicate nature of the existing judicial protection associated with 800.03. Even with favorable case law that dates back more than thirty years, overzealous enforcement officers occasionally feel justified in using the statutory language alone to bust someone for simple nudity under 800.03. It happens. And when it happens, a naturist must mount a legal defense against a misdemeanor charge.

Raising the penalty for 800.03 to the felony level, even under limited circumstances, makes these enforcement "misfires" a much more chilling prospect. But worse than that, proposed subtle changes to the wording of 800.03 that are included in House Bill 269, Senate Bill 2058 and other legislation may provide an excuse for a new judicial examination of the statute, perhaps diminishing the prospect of continued judicial protection.

Naturists should be very concerned about this legislation.

SPECIFIC FLORIDA LEGISLATION OF PRESENT CONCERN TO NATURISTS

    HOUSE BILL 269 Sponsor: Rep. William Snyder (R-Stuart). This bill would add greatly increased penalties under 800.03 in certain locations and during certain times of day. HB 269 proposes changes to the wording of 800.03 that could jeopardize the protection for naturists afforded by current judicial rulings. This is the original legislation suggested to Rep. Snyder by Martin County Sheriff Bob Crowder, Bill Snyder's former boss in the Martin County Sheriff's Department.

    SENATE BILL 2058 Sponsor: Sen. Victor Crist (R-Tampa). This is a Senate companion bill for House Bill 269. Not quite identical to HB 269, Senate Bill 2058 contains the same escalated penalties for violation of 800.03, as well as much of the same language that naturists find threatening. Sen. Crist introduced his bill at the urging of Bob Levy, a veteran lobbyist acting on behalf of FANR and AANR, using language supplied by AANR.

    SENATE BILL 1842 Sponsor: Sen. Dave Aronberg (D-Greenacres). Another Senate companion bill for HB 269. Sen. Aronberg is less strongly committed to this legislation and introduced his bill as a favor to Rep. Snyder, whose help Aronberg seeks for other legislation Aronberg plans to sponsor. The wording of SB 1842 is similar, but not quite identical, to that of HB 269.

    HOUSE BILL 41 Sponsor: Rep. Dick Kravitz (R-Jacksonville). This bill greatly enhances penalties for certain crimes, but in its initial form it did not address 800.03. A committee substitute in late February added 800.03 to the list of crimes for which the penalty is increased. A second offense under 800.03 would become a third degree felony, and a third offense would be a second degree felony, carrying a mandatory five years in prison. HB 41 is of additional concern, because it started moving through the committee process, even before the legislative session convened.

    SENATE BILL 2544 Sponsor: Sen. Ronda Storms (R-Tampa). Yes, THAT Ronda Storms. Newly elected Sen. Storms was a strident opponent of nudity when she served on the Board of County Commissioners of Hillsborough County, and now, she's a freshman senator in Tallahassee. Her bill is a companion to House Bill 41, and it matches the substitute version of HB 41 that proposes increased penalties for Section 800.03.

    SENATE BILL 1800 Sponsor: Sen. Bill Posey (R-Rockledge). This bill authorizes warrantless arrest, specifically where "[t]here is probable cause to believe that the person has unlawfully exhibited his or her sexual organs in public in violation of s. 800.03." The troubling implications for naturists are obvious.

    HOUSE BILL 1475 Sponsor: Rep. Bob Allen (R-Merritt Island). This bill broadens the scope of Section 800.04 of the Florida Statutes. That section specifically addresses "lewd or lascivious exhibition," including public masturbation. HB 1475 broadens the scope of 800.04 to include lewd acts committed in the presence of those of any age, not just those under the age of 16, as the existing law specifies. HB 1475 does not mention 800.03 at all, but it increases the penalty for lewd acts under 800.04. House Bill 1475 may be a bill that can draw support from naturists, as well as from Martin County law enforcement.

WHAT IS NAC DOING?

The Naturist Action Committee is working closely on this matter with local naturists and with representatives of Florida naturist clubs and groups. NAC continues to work with lawmakers and their staff members, both directly and through the professional legislative lobbyist retained by South Florida Free Beaches. NAC will be picking up a portion of the expense for that lobbyist during the 2007 legislative session.

WHAT IS NAC ASKING YOU TO DO?

This is an informational advisory only. The Naturist Action Committee is specifically asking that you do not take action at this time.

NAC anticipates an upcoming appropriate time and circumstance for contacts with lawmakers on these issues, but that time is NOT RIGHT NOW. Please watch for further NAC Action Alerts, Advisories and Updates on this topic.

MORE INFORMATION

You can access additional information on the Web site of the Naturist Action Committee.

  
www.naturistaction.org

Select "Alerts, Advisories and Updates." Under Current Advisories, you'll find the text of this NAC Advisory, along with links to the complete text of each of these Florida bills, existing Florida law and pertinent court cases.

PLEASE HELP NAC HELP LOCAL NATURISTS

The Naturist Action Committee exists to advance and protect the rights and interests of naturists throughout North America. As the nonprofit volunteer political adjunct to The Naturist Society, NAC is a vigorous force at work on behalf of naturists.

The Naturist Action Committee relies entirely on your voluntary support. Please donate generously with a check to:

    NAC
    PO Box 132
    Oshkosh, WI 54903

Or use your credit card to make a direct donation online through NAC's Web site:
   
www.naturistaction.org/donate/

Thank you for choosing to make a difference.

Naturally,

Morley Schloss
Board Member
Naturist Action Committee

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Naturist Action Committee (NAC) - PO Box 132, Oshkosh, WI 54903
Executive Dir. Bob Morton       -
execdir@naturistaction.org
Board Member Morley Schloss     -
morleynaturist@hotmail.com
Online Rep. Dennis Kirkpatrick  -
naturist@sunclad.com
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