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Florida Criminalizes Sexual Harassment in Government Offices

sexual harassment concept written on a blackboard with white marker

Late last month, the Florida Senate Committee unanimously passed a bill that criminalizes sexual harassment that occurs within the confines of government offices. Senate Bill No. 1628 was introduced by Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation. The bill’s passage directly resulted from a sexual harassment claim brought by senate legislative aide Rachel Perrin Rogers against Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater. The investigation determined that Senator Latvala violated both Senate misconduct rules as well as public corruption laws.

In Florida, sexual harassment is a type of sex crime, and a conviction has the potential to derail an offender’s life and career. If you are charged with sexual harassment or another Florida sex crime, the criminal defense lawyers at Khonsari Law Group may represent you in your case, help you formulate a successful legal defense, or help you minimize the consequences of a guilty finding or conviction.

What the Senate Bill Says

Passage of Senate Bill No. 1628 is the first step to the bill becoming Florida law. As it stands now, the bill:

  • Completely outlaws sexual harassment—including unwanted sexual advances made by legislators, employees of government agencies, lobbyists, and candidates who campaign for public office
  • Allows for new and harsher penalties for offending lawmakers
  • Allows for the creation of a new victim advocate in each governmental agency
  • Bans the hiring of “closers”

The Senate later amended the initial bill to increase the potential penalties to lawmakers upon conviction. The current penalties include:

  • A minimum civil penalty of $5,000 per act of sexual harassment
  • As much as $20,000 per act of sexual harassment for enhanced violations

Fines would go to the victims’ compensation trust fund. Lobbyists who violate the new law may also face penalties—specifically, suspension or revocation of their lobbying registration. Moreover, violators of the future law must pay for the victim’s advocate and the victim’s legal representation. The bill also permits anyone to file a complaint against a lawmaker by way of the Florida Commission on Ethics. The commission can then investigate the claim.

What the House Bill Says

In addition to the Florida Senate bill, a pending House bill would also increase the penalties for sexual harassment by government employees, legislators, and visitors. It would also permit the Florida Commission on Ethics to investigate sexual harassment claims. However, under the House version of the bill, the alleged victim of sexual harassment must first file a written complaint with the Florida House or Senate. Both bills establish different penalty amounts.

Contact a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer Today for a Free Initial Consultation

Sexual harassment charges and convictions are serious business, and the penalties upon conviction can prove severe. The criminal defense lawyers at Khonsari Law Group may help you obtain a dismissal of your charge, a favorable plea deal with the state, or a reduced sentence upon conviction. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a St. Petersburg, Florida, criminal defense lawyer at Khonsari Law Group, please call us today at (727) 269-5300 or contact us online.

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