Archaic laws that could land someone in jail for up to a year for such crimes as maliciously imputing a woman’s lack of chastity or degrading a bank’s reputation may soon be removed from Florida statutes under legislation sponsored by Senator Daphne Campbell (D-Miami).
SB 1060, which won unanimous endorsement Monday in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, would remove two obscure criminal statutes dating back to the late 1800’s and early 20th century, both first degree misdemeanors.
“This bill would repeal Florida Statute Chapter 836 Section 4 which makes it a first degree misdemeanor for a person to speak of a woman, married or unmarried falsely and maliciously imputing to her want of chastity,” explained Senator Campbell. “It also repeals Florida Statue Chapter 836 Section 6 which also makes it a first degree misdemeanor for a person to speak or make derogatory statements concerning banks or building and loan associations.”
In Florida, a first degree misdemeanor conviction can include up to a year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or 12 months of probation.
At one time 15 states had criminal statutes prohibiting imputing unchastity to women, whether in writing or orally. In addition to Florida, which enacted its law in 1883, these states included Oklahoma, Alabama, and North Carolina.
In the case of the financial institutions, the 1915 law may have been enacted to prevent bank runs, but its origins remain murky.
“We can all agree that defamation or libelous remarks of any kind are serious and have no place in our public discourse,” said Sen. Campbell. “However, in our modern society these penalties are too severe and are an unnecessary government intrusion into an issue that has mostly been handled amongst two private citizens in civil proceedings.”
SB 1060 has two additional committee hearings before heading to the full Senate for a vote. Its next stop will be before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.