Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is putting would-be looters and other criminals looking to take advantage of vulnerable Floridians in the wake of Hurricane Idalia on notice.
On Thursday, Moody sent a letter to state attorneys in the circuits affected by Idalia, outlining state law requiring that no defendant charged with a theft crime committed in an area under a declared state of emergency be released prior to a first appearance hearing.
“Looters must be locked up in pretrial detention for as long as possible to ensure they do not continue to wreak havoc on displaced Floridians or pull vital resources from ongoing recovery efforts. I have been in contact with the State Attorneys in the hardest hit areas and have asked them to seek pretrial detention to the fullest extent possible for looters looking to take advantage of Floridians during their greatest time of need,” said Moody.
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Moody asked that those state attorneys seek pretrial detention to the fullest extent possible for defendants who commit crimes during the current state of emergency.
Florida Statute §907.041(4)(b) directs that no non-monetary releases shall be granted for dangerous crimes at the first appearance hearing under certain circumstances.
Also on Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a warning to potential looters seeking to profit from Hurricane Idalia’s devastation: “You loot. We shoot.”
The Republican governor reminded the public that Florida has a strong attachment to the Second Amendment during a press conference in Perry alongside Taylor County Sheriff Wayne Padgett, also a Republican.
Commenting on reports of looting in Steinhatchee, a city about 40 miles south of Perry, DeSantis said, “We are not going to tolerate looting in the aftermath of a natural disaster.”
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“I’d also just remind potential looters: You never know what you’re walking into. People have a right to defend their property. [In] this part of Florida, you got a lot of advocates and proponents of the Second Amendment and I’ve seen signs in different people’s yards after these disasters and I’d say it’s probably [true] here: ‘You loot, we shoot.’”
DeSantis added, “You never know what’s behind that door. These are people who are going to defend themselves and their families.”
“We’re going to hold you accountable from a law enforcement perspective at a minimum and it could even be worse than that, depending on what’s behind that door.”
DeSantis made similar comments roughly 11 months ago in the wake of Hurricane Ian’s destruction of Southwest Florida.
“The other thing that we’re concerned about, particularly in those areas that were really hard hit, is we want to make sure we’re maintaining law and order,” said DeSantis at the time.
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“Don’t even think about looting. Don’t even think about taking advantage of people in this vulnerable situation,” he continued. “I can tell you, in the state of Florida, you never know what may be lurking behind somebody’s home, and I would not want to chance that if I were you, given that we’re a Second Amendment state.”
DeSantis has sought to crack down on looters and violent rioters since the Black Lives Matter and Antifa riots of 2020.
In April 2021, DeSantis signed the so-called “anti-riot” bill that created tougher penalties for rioting, looting, obstructing traffic and harassing people in public accommodations.
At the time, DeSantis said he advocated for the law to “combat violence, disorder, looting, and protect law enforcement.”
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