Panel OKs changes to laws governing sex acts with minors

House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Photo courtesy

The Florida House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee met Tuesday to discuss House Bill 1397 and House Bill 411.

Republican Rep. Chuck Brannan started the meeting by presenting HB 1397, or Lewd or Lascivious Acts with Minors.

“HB 1397 creates the crime of touching in a lewd or lascivious manner the breast, genitals, genital area or buttock or the clothing covering them of a 16- or 17-year-old when the offender is 24 years of age or older,” Brannan said.

Brannan decided to share a personal experience to further explain the importance of the bill.

“I can give you an example from my career. I was working as an investigator one day and got a call,” Brannan said. “A 67-year-old gentleman went to take his garbage down and there was a girl walking down the road. He stopped to offer her a ride and it happened to be her 16th birthday. When he got her in the vehicle, he forcibly fondled her under her clothes. When I got back to the office and I realized that because it was the day she turned 16, I was only able to charge him with battery, which is a first-degree misdemeanor. I felt like that was a sex crime and that he should’ve been appropriately charged as such.”

This bill also has an amendment, which changes the crime of lewd or lascivious acts with minors to a third-degree felony instead of a second-degree felony.

All members voted in favor of the bill and the amendment.

The meeting continued with Republican Rep.Thomas “Pat” Maney presenting HB 411, or Breach of Bond Cost.

“It’s a simple short bill.” Maney said. The bill would require a bond agent when a defendant fails to appear. It requires the bond agent to provide transportation costs to return the defendant to the county where the defendant was released on bond.

Maney also described an amendment that goes along with the bill.

“The 2nd District Court of Appeals has said that the way that current law is written it only covers the mileage costs and no other cost,” Maney said. “So, the amendment would require the bond agent to pay the other costs such as mileage, meals, the deputy’s time and that sort of thing.”

After Maney’s presentation, Democratic Rep. Patricia Williams needed clarification.

“So, you’re saying those costs would be charged to the sheriff’s office and not to the bail bondsmen?” Williams said.

Maney responded by clarifying that only the bail bondsmen would be responsible for those costs.

No ma’am, those costs would be paid by the bondsmen,” Maney said.

All members of the committee voted in favor of the bill and the amendment.

HB 1397 and HB 411 now move on to the Senate.