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Will lawmakers extend special criminal protection to real estate agents?

According to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors, upwards of 40 percent of its members indicated that they had endured some sort of situation in which they either feared for their personal safety or the security of their personal information while on the job, while another 2 percent indicated that they had been robbed while working.

In light of numbers like these and recent reports both locally and nationally of real estate agents being targeted by criminal activity, two Florida lawmakers have sponsored legislation designed to enhance legal protections for those in this profession.

The legislation in question, House Bill 47, sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples), and Senate Bill 214, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice), calls for the charges against those accused of battering, assaulting or sexually assaulting a real estate agent showing a home or hosting an open house to essentially be increased by one level.

Accordingly, a person charged with committing a first-degree misdemeanor against a real estate agent, otherwise punishable by up to one year in prison, would instead be charged with a third-degree felony, otherwise punishable by up to five years in prison.

While HB 47 has breezed through all of its committees and has already been heard once on the House floor, its overall prospects for becoming law in the less than three weeks remaining in the current legislative session are slim.

That's because even though its Senate counterpart was passed by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee earlier this week, it has not been scheduled for any future committee hearings in the Senate.

The reality, according to experts, is that committee members actually had very serious reservations about the legal ramifications of carving our special protections for just one profession, and likely decided to advance the measure only as a sort of ceremonial hat tip to Detert, who is leaving the Senate at the conclusion of the current session.  

Indeed, Detert herself later acknowledged that her sponsorship of the bill was more about expressing support for real estate agents than it was a serious push for a new law.

What are your thoughts on this legislation? Do you think it should actually be considered by the Senate or that should it be effectively tabled?

If you are under investigation or have been charged with any sort of violent crime, the stakes are incredibly high. As such, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can protect your rights and your future as soon as possible.       

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