What is the Law on affray in Florida and What are the Punishments for it?
A fight between people is termed as affray in legal terms. Common identifiers for affray include:
- Involvement of two or more people
- Occurrence in public area
- Causing a feeling of terror amongst the public
An act of affray can also become disorderly conduct and the involved parties can be charged with criminal penalties instead of a misdemeanor.
Common disorderly conduct and their subsequent sentences:
- Assembling without permission – When a breach of the peace is committed by three or people then the misdemeanor of the second degree is said to have taken place.
Penalties – Imprisonment of 60 days and a fine of $500.
- Riots – When people gather unlawfully and this gathering results in damages to properties and infrastructure then the act is called a riot. Every person involved in such an activity is charged with a third-degree felony.
- Unlawful fighting and physical altercations - These are considered a the first-degree misdemeanor.
Penalties – Imprisonment up to 1 year
- Traffic obstruction
- Using abusive language
- Making loud noise
Dispersing a riotous crowd:
A crowd which has gathered unlawfully (with or without arms) may be asked by any government official to immediately dispense from the scene. The state of Florida has given the responsibilities to all its government officials to command all such people in the State’s name and ask them to move out.
If any member of this gathering chooses to not follow the orders, then the officers are required to inform them of possible arrests. Even after such attempts if people choose to not obey the orders then they are deemed as rioters and are likely to be prosecuted for affray.
If during the execution of these dispensation efforts, there is any person who gets wounded or killed then the said government officer(s) are deemed as not guilty under the law. However, on the contrary, if any of the government officials on the scene are wounded or killed during such gatherings then all the people present (who refused to obey orders) will be held responsible.
Affray on school campus:
A lot of laws as applicable to schools are governed by the Florida Department of Education. It is this department that has coined the term ‘disruption on campus’ and all the behaviors, threats and safety measures. Disruption on campus includes:
- Disrupting school functions
- Any disorderly conduct
Emergency due to affray:
The state of Florida has empowered its sheriff to declare a state of emergency (under section 870.043 - Affray) if they believe that there are chances of riots or violence which can, in turn, cause a threat to public peace, safety and cause disorder. These emergencies may last up to 72 hours if not terminated earlier by a Government official. Any further extensions beyond this limit may be requested from the city council or the county commission.
In an emergency situation, the following measures are automatically kicked in:
- No sale of ammunition or firearms
- No display of firearms in any stores
- No possession of any firearm in a public area with exceptions to all government officials and military personnel on duty
Discretionary emergency actions:
When an emergency has been declared by a government official under section 870.043, some additional limitations may also be imposed:
- Curfews – Restricting vehicle and pedestrian movements outside with exceptions to police, fire and hospital services.
- Inhibiting sale of alcohol
- Prohibiting anyone from possessing an alcoholic beverage container in public
- Closing spaces where public assemblies are conducted
- No sale of any flammable liquid or substance
- Prohibiting anyone from possessing such liquids or substances in public
Paying for damages:
Unlike other laws wherein the convict is likely to pay for the damages, in case of affray the damages are borne by the insurance. Depending on individual property/ vehicle insurance and injury insurance, claims are processed however statistics typically point that innocent people lose a lot of money after such riots and affrays.