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Bill to speed the delivery of protective orders moves again

Senior Editor Top Stories
Sen. Janet Cruz

Sen. Janet Cruz

A proposal to speed the delivery of protective orders to law enforcement is headed to the Senate floor.

The Senate Rules Committee voted overwhelmingly February 15 to approve SB 654 by Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa.

Under the measure, law enforcement agencies would be required to receive protective orders that are electronically transmitted by court clerks.

“By not accepting electronic copies there’s a delay…which may lead to a petitioner being harassed or even killed,” Cruz said.

Current law prohibits a clerk from electronically transferring a protective order unless a sheriff requests it.

The measure would apply to a domestic violence injunction, injunction for repeat violence, sexual violence or dating violence, injunction for stalking, and related documents, according to the analysis.

Cruz added an amendment that would delay implementation by six months, until January 1, 2023. Court clerks and law enforcement agencies need time to make technical arrangements, Cruz said.

“There are departments that worry that the clerk’s office doesn’t speak in the same language, or use the same program as their office, so they wanted more time to work this all out,” Cruz said.

But Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book of Ft. Lauderdale, a children’s advocate, said she was worried about the six-month delay.

“I just have a fundamental issue of giving six months [more] time when people are dying every day,” Book said.

Cruz said the stakeholders originally requested a year, but she would only agree to six months.

Cruz added an amendment at a previous committee stop that would permit the orders to be transmitted by facsimile or other means when an internet outage lasts more than 24 hours.

Hillsborough Court Clerk and Comptroller Cindy Stuart told the House Judiciary Committee in January that her office processes some 6,500 protective orders a year.

“And to think that those are getting put in the mail in the majority of offices across the state is a public safety issue,” she said. “Time matters. Seconds matter.”

A House companion, HB 905 by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, R-DeLand, cleared the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee 17-0 on February 1. It faces one more hearing in Judiciary.

The 60-day session adjourns March 11.

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