Florida Senate Introduces Proposed Good Samaritan Law, Criminalizing Social Media Activity Under Certain Circumstances

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Good Samaritan laws are controversial because there’s tremendous disagreement over whether a person should have a duty to render aid to another person or face criminal prosecution. This summer, a disturbing news story reported that a group of teenagers mocked a disabled man in Coco, Florida as he drowned in a retention pond. The teens also filmed the encounter and uploaded it to social media. The teens did not attempt to render aid or call for help. The story made national news because of the actions of the teenagers. Many called for the teens to face Florida criminal prosecution for their actions, or inaction, while the man drowned.

In response to this incident, the Florida legislature is considering a proposed law that requires a person at the scene of an emergency to render aid or call for assistance if confronted with an “endangered person.” The term “endangered person” means a person who is in imminent danger of, or who has suffered, grave physical harm. A person does not have a duty to an endangered person if it would put that person in danger or someone else is already rendering aid.

A violation of this proposed law would be a first-degree misdemeanor. However, as mentioned earlier, in response to the incident in Coco, Florida, if a person video-records the person in danger and uploads it to social media, that person is eligible for a third-degree felony. In addition, a person who renders aid under this proposed law would receive immunity from civil damages for any injuries that occur from rendering aid.

According to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, all 50 States, including the District of Columbia, have some form of Good Samaritan law. What makes Florida’s proposed version of the law unique is the criminalization of posting on social media instead of coming to another person’s aid. It demonstrates that Florida criminal laws are constantly evolving in order to respond to new technology and social conditions.

Each legislative session means that new or amended criminal laws could come into effect. Will Hanlon has represented the criminally accused for more than two decades, and he knows that legislative changes require a capable, experienced attorney who can help you navigate your legal options. At Hanlon Law, Clearwater criminal defense attorney Will Hanlon knows what you are going through and the uncertainty while you await for adjudication. With Attorney Will Hanlon, you can discuss your case, and he will endeavor to protect your future to the greatest extent possible. If you would like to schedule an appointment, call Hanlon Law at 727-897-5413 or contact us online.

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