by Bethany Blankley
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is warning people not to loot during the state of emergency resulting from widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Ian.
She issued a warning to criminals on Friday, saying, “you will spend maximum time allowed by law behind bars.”
Moody sent a memo to state attorneys in all 20 judicial circuits to throw the book at those arrested for committing crimes during a statewide disaster.
“Floridians displaced by Hurricane Ian have enough to worry about without having to fear theft or burglary at the hands of offenders previously arrested for crimes during the state of emergency,” Moody said. “These unscrupulous offenders must remain locked up where they can no longer prey on vulnerable Floridians. I strongly urge state attorneys to seek pretrial detention to the fullest extent possible for any criminal heartless enough to victimize Floridians during this extremely challenging time.”
Her memo points out that state law requires no defendant who is charged with committing a theft crime in an area under a declared state of emergency shall be released prior to a first appearance hearing.
She requested all state attorneys to seek pretrial detention to the fullest extent possible for those who commit crimes during the state of emergency. Her memo states that Florida Statute §907.041(4)(b) directs no non-monetary releases to be granted for dangerous crimes at the first appearance hearing under certain circumstances.
The memo also suggests that state attorneys consider discussing augmenting circuit bond schedules during the state of emergency with the chief judge in their circuits. Doing so, she says, will “enhance, increase and/or eliminate the standard bonds for theft, burglary and other crimes related to the circumstances created by the exigency that is the basis of the declared state of emergency.”
Last week, she activated the state’s Price Gouging Hotline and encouraged consumers to report instances of severe price increases on essential commodities needed to help recover from Hurricane Ian.
Her office also published tips on how to report price gauging. Violators are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation, up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period.
During a storm-related declared state of emergency, state law prohibits excessive increases in the price of essential commodities like food, water, hotel rooms, ice, gasoline, lumber, equipment and storm-related services.
Her office’s Rapid Response Team is quickly responding to consumer contacts alleging price gouging, she said.
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