Bill could usurp Castle Doctrine


A bill filed this week by Democratic Deputy Whip Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, could impact a homeowner’s right to self defense, and grant utility workers the same status afforded police and firefighters.

It would also create another special class of victim.

Sen. Darren Soto

Sen. Darren Soto

SB-100, Assault or Battery on a Utility Worker, increases the penalties for crimes against electric or gas company employees or their vendors on private property.

The bill defines a utility worker as a “person who bears at least one patch or emblem that is visible at all times and that clearly identifies the employing or contracting utility and that clearly identifies the person as a utility worker under contract with or employed by an entity that owns, operates, leases, or controls a plant, property, or facility for the generation, transmission,  or furnishing to or for the public of electricity, natural or manufactured gas, water, telephone, or communications service, including two or more utilities rendering joint service.”

The bill, and specifically the language about patches, stems from an incident that occurred several years ago. Two contract employees working for a utility company hopped a six-foot chain link fence, seeking to turn off a homeowner’s power for nonpayment of his bill.

Since it was summer, the pair left their shirts – which bore patches identifying them as power company contractors – in their vehicle, and were wearing only white t-shirts. Their van was similarly unmarked.

When he saw that two strangers had hopped his fence, the homeowner armed himself with a shotgun and ordered the pair to stop. He fired a warning shot into the air when the contractors continued.

The bill’s potential for weakening the Castle Doctrine is one of the reasons why SB-100 is strongly opposed by the Unified Sportsmen of Florida.CD

“Imagine being charged with a crime for chasing someone off your property that you believe is a trespasser, and going to prison for protecting your home and family,” said Marion P. Hammer, executive director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida and an NRA past president. “This bill would elevate utility workers to the same status as sworn law enforcement officers and first responders. With that status, it would provide enhanced criminal penalties for chasing utility workers off your property who come on your property without your permission.”

According to the bill the enhanced penalties include:

— In the case of assault, from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a misdemeanor of the first degree.

— In the case of battery, from a misdemeanor of the first degree to a felony of the third degree.

— In the case of aggravated assault, from a felony of the third degree to a felony of the second degree.

— In the case of aggravated battery, from a felony of the second degree to a felony of the first degree.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


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  2. Bruce Richardson on

    I always have to preface remarks concerning such articles with “If the facts are as represented in the story.” Sen. Darren Soto has filed a bill in response to that one incident? And his bill wouldn’t have been applicable to that one incident? The two men were not wearing their shirts that identified them as power company employees.

    Most likely, had they been wearing their shirts, the homeowner would not have responded as he did. Who, in their right mind, would continue to approach a scared [most likely] citizen with a shotgun. What’s to keep criminals who don’t work for the power company from wearing a shirt that identifies them as power company employees?

    Certainly the bill is silly. I appears to be just another attempt to stick it to gun owners.

    I do have concerns about the veracity of the article. When it said that the workers “continued,” did that mean that they were continuing to walk towards the homeowner who reasonably assumed that they were a threat? Or did it mean that they continued to disconnect his service? If it is the latter, then the home owner is probably in serious trouble. A reasonable man who knew that he had not paid his energy bill and observed two men disconnecting his service, would reasonably assume that two men disconnecting his service were employees of the company no matter what they were wearing. Was the home owner trying to keep them from disconnecting his service using a shotgun?

    Year ago, my father was awakened by loud pounding on his front door. My father could see, when he peaking out, that it wasn’t a neighbor. The guy was a little seedy. The pounding continued. Finally my father threw the door open and had his 38 Special aimed at his chest. He said “What the hell do you want at 1:00 a.m.?” The fellow claimed to be a deputy constable and reached under his coat for his identification. My father told him to stop. Don’t make any sudden moves. His instructions were to use his left hand to get his ID and set it on the edge of the porch. Then move back to his car (unmarked) while my father checked his ID. My father then said “Deputy, I believe you are who you say you are, now why are you pounding on my door at 1:00 a.m.?” As it turned out, he was attempting to serve papers and had the who address. Mr. Ru… lived three houses down. My father suggested that he not do to Ru… what he just did to him. Ru… might shoot you. Just call and make an appointment. Ru… isn’t a criminal. The deputy took my father’s advise. Obviously my father reasonably assumed that the man could be a threat. My father heard nothing more about the incident. I doubt that the deputy wanted anyone to know that he was held at gunpoint by a 68 year old citizen or that he pounded on the wrong door. 🙂

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