Today, Governor Rick Scott joined law enforcement officers at the Lee County Sheriff's Office to ceremonially sign legislation that expands protection of victims of sexual and domestic violence.
"We are fortunate that Florida has experienced a 41-year low crime rate, but we must continue to provide our law enforcement officers with the tools they need to keep our communities safe," Governor Scott said. "This legislation will protect the rights of individuals affected by crime and help make Florida a safer place."
Governor Scott was joined by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto and Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott to highlight the following bills:
House Bill 437, "Protect Our Children Act of 2012"
* The bill safeguards children from sexual predators and can result in more severe sentencing for child pornography. Video voyeurism convictions result in the status of sexual predator if there has been a prior offense. If a person knowingly has photographs, including sexual conduct by more than one child, then each child depicted in the photograph can be viewed as a separate offense.
House Bill 1099, Stalking
* The bill expands current law to include cyberstalking and removes the need for victims to prove that the person stalking them intended to carry out the threat and cause harm.
* It also establishes protections for stalking and cyberstalking similar to those provided for domestic violence by requiring the court to consider restraining the defendant from victim contact for up to 10 years and increasing the penalties for violating an injunction by up to one year in a county jail and a $1,000 fine.
House Bill 1193, Public Records/Victims of Violence
* The bill ensures there is a public records exemption for any personal contact information of a victim when an injunction for protection against domestic violence, repeat violence, sexual violence, or dating violence has been served. This exemption will help protect victims of violence from their abusers.
House Bill 1355, Protection of Vulnerable Persons
* Those who know about child abuse -- yet choose not to report it -- will face tougher penalties. For example, schools and universities can now be fined $1 million for failing to report child abuse.
* In addition, funds are provided to the Attorney General's Office to expand the scope of victims who are eligible to receive relocation assistance to include victims of sexual battery. The bill also increases funds used by the Department of Children and Families for the Florida Abuse Hotline.