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Posts Tagged ‘Florida animal law’

Florida Felony Farm Photography Bill will Undergo Significant Revisions

March 11th, 2011 4 comments

SB 1246, introduced by Senator Jim Norman (R-12), would make trespassing on a farm and photographing the farm, a first degree felony. 

Under the bill as it presently stands, a person could face a first degree felony charge, punishable by up to 30 years in prison, for:

  • Entering onto a farm or other property where agricultural operations are being carried out without the written consent of the owner or authorized representative.
  • Photographing, video recording, or otherwise producing images or pictorial records of the farm without the written consent of the owner or authorized representative.

As can be expected, the draft of SB 1246 that was introduced on March 8 has drawn sharp criticism from animal rights groups and First Amendment proponents.

I spoke with Dennis Cadle, Legislative Assistant to Sen. Nelson, this afternoon about the measure.  Cadle stated that the bill is set to undergo significant revisions to address constitutional concerns and to clarify the intent requirement for violating the law.

The Purpose Behind the Introduction of SB 1246

According to Cadle, the purpose behind the measure is the protection of property rights and intellectual property rights of farmers in the State of Florida.  Cadle explained that the proposed legislation is designed to prevent persons or groups such as PETA, the Humane Society and others from being able to conduct covert or undercover “sting operations” on farms because they disagree with “otherwise legitimate business operations” of the farms.

Cadle likened the activity of these groups to actions on the part of abortion opponents who would use improper means to object to otherwise legal actions.

Cadle clarified that the bill is not intended to act as a shield to allow farmers and ranchers to avoid scrutiny for illegal acts such as cruelty to animals or the employment of illegal aliens.  The application of the law would be limited to persons who, for example, gain entry onto the property by misrepresentation or subterfuge and then proceed to film or photograph legal activities they happen to disagree with.

Pictures of Cows

SB 1246 is Set for Major Overhaul

Revisions Are in the Works for SB 1246

Of course, for such limits to apply, the bill will have to undergo major revisions.  As it stands, the language of the bill is so broad that an individual who unwittingly wanders onto a farmer’s property after getting lost on a hike would be in violation and face a first degree felony charge, as would a tourist who snaps a photograph of a farm scene from the roadway.

Cadle explained that as part of the overhaul of SB 1246, a person would have to actually be trespassing on the farm in order to face criminal charges for photographing, video recording or otherwise producing visual records of the farm. 

Anyone interested in tracking SB 1246 can sign up for updates from the Florida Senate website. 

Senator Jim Norman can be contacted at (813) 265-6260 or (850) 487-5068.  His e-mail address is norman.jim.web@flsenate.gov.

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Categories: Florida Animal Law

Thirty Years in Prison for Photographing Farm Animals?

March 9th, 2011 11 comments

A Florida state senator has introduced a bill that would punish the unauthorized photographing of farms with up to 30 years in prison.

State Senator Jim Norman (R-12) has introduced SB 1246.  Under the bill, the following activities would be deemed first-degree felonies:

  • Entering onto a farm or other property where agricultural operations are being carried out without the written consent of the owner or authorized representative.
  • Photographing, video recording, or otherwise producing images or pictorial records of ”legitimate agriculture operations” without the written consent of the owner or authorized representative.
Thirty Years in Prison for Trespassing on a Cow Pasture

First Degree Felony for Trespassing on Someone's Cow Pasture?

The bill defines a farm as “any tract of land cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production, the raising or breeding of domestic animals, or the storage of a commodity.”

Felony Trespass on a Farm

Under the plain language of the proposed law, simply entering onto a farm without written permission could land a person in prison for up to 30 years.  Compare this proposed legislation with other statutory provisions dealing with trespass.

Chapter 810 of the Florida Statutes deals with burglary and trespass.  Section 810.08 forbids the willful trespass in a structure or conveyance; § 801.09 addresses trespass on property other than a structure or conveyance; and § 810.095 deals with trespass on school property with a firearm or other weapon.  

Sections 810.08 through 810.095 provide various penalties for trespass depending upon the circumstances.  For example, ordinary trespass on property that is not a structure or conveyance is a first degree misdemeanor.  Armed trespass in a structure, conveyance, or on property, including school property, is a third degree felony.

The key difference between SB 1246 and these other Florida trespass statutes is that the other trespass statutes require that, in order to be punishable as a crime, the trespass must be “willful.” 

Florida courts have consistently held that the term “willful” means “intentional, knowing, and purposeful.”  Thus, there is no requirement in the proposed bill that the person entering onto a farm do so intentionally, knowingly and purposefully.  There is no requirement that a person intend to trespass on the farm.  Simply stepping onto farm property without the written permission of the owner or authorized representative could land a person in prison for up to 30 years. 

Photographing or Video Recording of “Legitimate” Agricultural Operations

The photographs you see here were taken from the side of State Road 56 in Pasco County.  They contain images of grazing cattle in the fields of the beautiful Wiregrass Ranch (what is left of it). 

"Felony" Farm Photography

I took these photographs myself a few days ago, without obtaining the written authorization of the owners or the authorized representatives of the ranch.  If SB 1246 passes, after July 1, 2011, such behavior on my part could lead to a first degree felony conviction and up to 30 years in prison.

What is the Purpose Behind SB 1246?

As yet, no Staff Analysis has been published explaining the purpose behind SB 1246.  In a recent article, the Florida Tribune quoted Wilton Simpson, a farmer living in Senator Norman’s district, as saying that the bill is needed to protect the property rights of farmers and the “intellectual property” of farm operations.

There is nothing in the plain language of the bill, however, that requires a person have any intent whatsoever, much less an intent to violate the farm owner’s property rights or “intellectual property” involving farm operations.  The bill, as it was introduced, would very clearly outlaw my act of snapping a few pictures of farm animals even if my only intent in doing so was to give expression to a vision of the vanishing Florida pasture land.

As a constituent of Senator Norman’s, I contacted his office seeking clarification on the purpose and meaning of this bill.  At this time, I have not received a reply.

Senator Jim Norman can be contacted at (813) 265-6260 or (850) 487-5068.  His e-mail address is norman.jim.web@flsenate.gov.

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Categories: Florida Animal Law