• Unspeakable Times

Florida's No Wilder Than Any Other State, But The Revolutionary Sunshine Act Makes It Seems That Way

Is Florida as crazy as it seems? Anyone reading or watching the news knows a story beginning with the words “Florida man” - or any Florida resident, really - is bound to be good. Whether the crimes take place in southern grocery chain Publix or the Everglades, the reports range from hysterical to macabre in nature.

Jokes around the internet refer to “Florida Man” as one person wreaking havoc in the state, but the truth is less meme and more lawful.

Dating back to in 1909, Florida operates under the idea that the government works for the people, so their information should be available to the public. The group of laws that protect this transparency are called the Florida Sunshine Laws; they include access to arrest records and Florida mug shots, making reporters' jobs easier while creating the dysfunctional "Florida Man" mythos.

Photo:
  • Exemptions To The Law “Sunset” If Not Renewed After Committee Review

    The Open Government Sunset Review Act provides guidelines for removing public access to specific records but also sets forth protections to limit any laws attempting to circumvent the Sunshine State Act.

    After a set time period, Florida lawmakers must renew a law or it is automatically repealed. This goes hand-in-hand with the constant re-evaluation of the framework that governs exemptions to public records access.

  • Journalists Can Call Police For Instant Arrest Record Access

    “Florida Man” emerged with journalists making a simple call to the police for full access to arrest records. A streamlining of this process came when law enforcement began posting mugshots and full details online for public use.

    Thanks to new technology, the writers of articles like “Florida Man, Shows IHOP Server His Butt When Free Food Request Doesn't Work” can use the details posted online to generate a post likely to attract fans of the “Florida Man” meme and strange crime news. Though some call providing such information progressive, it has also caused the state’s reputation to suffer through the reporting of so many odd infractions.

  • Under The Act, Anyone Can Request Information For Any Reason

    No specific rules define the scope of who may request public records in Florida. The state’s Open Government Guide only says “any person” may ask for government documentation.

    Furthermore, there is no requirement to disclose the intended use for the information when making a request. Children could legally request information about their teachers as quickly as Joel Chandler, advocate for the open records laws, can ask for documents to appraise the transparency of specific agencies.

  • The Progressive Law Has Held Under Both Major Political Parties

    Regardless of the political party currently in power in Florida, the Sunshine State Act laws and statutes remain in place. Democrats held the state until, as Ballotpedia reports, Republican dominance emerged in 1999, with the Conservative party holding majority seats in all three legislative branches through 2017.

    Throughout the changes in powers and parties, the Sunshine Laws have maintained the state’s reputation as having one of the most transparent laws concerning public records.