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Rep. Maney’s bill to protect defense attorneys in courtrooms passes unanimously

Last week, the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill (SB) 384, State Representative Patt Maney’s initiative to protect criminal defense attorneys and public defenders against violent acts […]

Representative Patt Maney (left) and a screenshot of defense attorney Eric Atria being attacked inside an Alachua County courtroom. (Video source: WCJB)

Last week, the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill (SB) 384, State Representative Patt Maney’s initiative to protect criminal defense attorneys and public defenders against violent acts in the courtroom.

The bill will upgrade the penalties for those found guilty of assaulting certain courtroom personnel, and Maney suggests that these changes could include additional bailiffs or security officers in the courtroom, along with changes to the layout of the courtroom to protect against violence. 

Under current law, individuals who commit acts of violence against certain professionals, including law enforcement officers, correctional officers, assistant and state attorneys, justices, and judges, may face increased penalties. However, defense attorneys are not included among the group of professionals whose protection is enhanced by this law.

Maney, a former judge in Okaloosa County, said he has had juveniles, who turned out to be very violent, need 2-3 bailiffs to get control of the situation. He also notes that some defendants may choose to be violent as a way to intimidate courtroom personnel or disrupt proceedings.

  • “An attack on any courtroom personnel is an attack on our entire criminal justice system. This legislation corrects the injustice of leaving our defense attorneys and public defenders vulnerable to violence in our courtrooms,” said State Representative Patt Maney. “Both Florida’s House and Senate unanimously stood up this week and resolutely affirmed that our courts will be safe places to conduct the people’s business. No more ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ cards for beating up your lawyer.”  

SB 384 is now heading to the Governor’s desk for his review and signature.  

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