Florida Supreme Court

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Penalty Provision in State Preemption Statute

Florida’s highest court on Jan. 19 upheld the penalty provision in the state’s preemption statute, which holds local officials accountable by directly fining them for knowingly passing preempted ordinances.

Like many states, Florida sought to have a uniform system of firearms laws and passed a preemption statute. But in 2011, after many lawsuits were filed against localities challenging preempted statutes, the state inserted a penalty provision into the statute. Local officials would now be fined up to $5,000 for knowingly passing preempted ordinances with a kicker: “public funds may not be used to defend or reimburse” the official for their unlawful conduct. That provision proved to be effective and largely stopped localities from passing preempted ordinances.

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But it left many local officials frustrated. Over 70 of them, along with three counties and 30 municipalities, filed suit challenging the provision. The Florida Supreme Court squarely and unequivocally rejected their claims: “we find no merit in Petitioners’ argument.” But what is telling is that these officials had no qualms about spending public resources, likely in the six-figure range, to take their meritless lawsuit up to the Florida Supreme Court just so they wouldn’t have to personally pay $5,000 for violating state law.

The case was captioned Fried v. State of Florida. The NRA participated as an amicus curiae.

© 2023 National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action. This may be reproduced. This may not be reproduced for commercial purposes.

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