Florida Legislature to Increase Vandalism Penalties for Veteran Memorials

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Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) is currently serving his first year in the Florida State Senate seat for Sarasota, but he has ambitiously launched a flurry of bills since taking office. Most of these bills were gun laws, shot down by Senate President Pro Tempore Aniteres Flores. Now, however, he is advancing legislation that is swiftly making its way through the senate in tandem with a companion bill introduced by Rep. Brad Drake (R-Eucheeanna) in the Florida House. Rep. Drake’s and Sen. Steube’s bills seek to make vandals think twice about defacing a veteran’s monument.

As it stands according to Rep. Drake, “Criminal mischief that damages a church, a public telephone, or sexually violent predator facility constitutes a third-degree felony.” The significance of this, however, is that this makes it far more costly to deface a public telephone than it is to deface a veteran’s monument. The former is a third-degree felony, yet the latter only qualifies as a second-degree misdemeanor. Drake continues:

“That’s the current law. This bill, H.B. 529, makes it a third-degree felony to willfully and maliciously injure, damage, or deface a memorial, which honors or commemorates a soldier, a military organization or unit, a first responder, or an astronaut.”

Rep. Drake’s bill has garnered the profound respect and support of two notable veterans—Kelly Crocker and Seber Newsome III. Crocker is a property owner in Leon County as well as a native Floridian and a voter. A member of Veterans of Foreign Wars, he explained that vandalism in this regard has become rampant. “There were about twenty gravestones damaged in Quincy in Gadsden County, Florida. We’ve got to put the brakes on this.”