Benjamin, Aaronson, Edinger & Patanzo, P.A.

“lewdness” laws

Over the past few months, we have written articles relating to you as to what is going on up in Tallahassee in regards to the “lewdness” laws in the State of Florida.  We informed you how James Benjamin for Benjamin & Aaronson and Luke Lirot out of Tampa traveled to Tallahassee to try to persuade the House and Senate Committees who were dealing with this issue, not to pass the proposed legislation.  Unfortunately, for all their hard work the legislation has passed and has been or will be signed by Governor Bush by the time you read this article.

What the new legislation does, is undo to some extent the remarkable victory that Daniel Aaronson for Benjamin & Aaronson and Sam Halpern had in the “Silvers and Hall” case.  That was the case that started the avalanche statewide establishing law around the State that in order for the crime of lewdness to be committed, one or more persons present must be an offended and that person could not be a police officer.

With the new legislation and law, now a police officer can testify as the offended person thereby causing the crime of lewdness to occur.  This happens to be an incredibly scary proposition, as now people will be subject to arrest because they offend the sensitivities of a particular police officer and that police officer may in fact be the most conservative, puritanical and sexually repressed person on the force.  That person may in actuality be the most conservative, puritanical or sexually repressed person even in the community.  However, now if that police officer’s sensibilities are offended by acts of sexual indulgence, under new Florida law the crime of lewdness would be committed.

What the State legislature did not look into and did not cure was the fact that Judge James Cohn in “Silvers and Hall” determined Florida lewdness Sections to be unconstitutional, on several grounds.  Most importantly, one of the other grounds was that he felt that it would be unconstitutional and a violation of due process for a police officer to be the one to be offended in order for the crime to be committed.  The new legislation, only cures part of Judge Cohn’s ruling in which he held that the State Statute precluded police officers from the ones to be offended as the legislation for lewdness did not indicate that the legislation was designed to protect the sensibilities of police officers.  As has just been said, the new legislation makes police officers one of the class of people that the legislation can protect, however, it still does not cure the unconstitutionality and the violation of due process that Judge Cohn found existed in the old statute.

Because of the new law, we suggest that if you own or operate an adult styled business, that you contact your lawyer to see what measures you can take so that the crime of lewdness is not committed on your premises and so that police officers cannot and will not be offended by what occurs within your establishments.

On another note on behalf of Club Madonna in Miami Beach, Daniel Aaronson has just filed a Federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Miami Beach’s Ordinances that prohibit alcohol and nudity.  The case is in the initial stages and therefore there is not much to report.  However, as the case goes through the court system, we will keep you informed of what transpires and how the litigation proceeds.

Also, the suit involving three adult books and video stores versus Miami-Dade County is still ongoing.  Last month, Luke Lirot and Daniel Aaronson on behalf of their respective clients took depositions in the matter.  The purpose of the depositions was to see if there truly was justification for the Ordinance that requires doors off of adult booths in adult book and video stores.  The County has alleged that there is a need for the doors to be taken off the booths to stop the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.  Expert reports from the parties are due to be exchanged next month.

Lastly, although not exactly local news, the never ending trial between Lollipops in Daytona Beach and the City of Daytona Beach is coming to an end.  Oral argument involving closing arguments in the case will be held on May 24, 2005 in Orlando, before the Honorable John Antoon, III, United States District Court Judge.  If you recall, this suit involves a fight against Daytona Beach’s zoning code, alcohol and nudity ordinances, and general nudity ordinances.  Lollipops has been involved in this fight since 2002, but a ruling is expected in a few months, putting an end to the trial stage of these proceedings.  All parties are more than well aware that regardless of who wins at the trial stage, appeals will be taken.

Once again, if you should have any First Amendment news or adult entertainment news that you think others would need to know or should know, please contact us so that we may find out this information and impart it to others.

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