As dictated by Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 810.08(1), any person who attempts to enter the premises of a building, structure, or any other variety of property without receiving permission from the landowner, proprietor, or resident, or after receiving a warning from these individuals, will have committed a crime …But what about a Public Building?
This administration has locked out all citizens from entering into Town Hall. If a citizen does not wish to pay their water bill on line, which may or may not work anyway, the citizen must drop the remuneration through the slot.
Many of the Citizens do not have bank accounts and I am certain they are concerned about dropping cash through the slot.
It is quite evident that no one will be able to secure paperwork for public records any more because one would not be able to come through the door and go to the barred desk to pay for and receive these documents.
This is definitely wrong. The Citizens have a right to the small entry of the town hall. But let’s see what UNC’s School of Government states:
Given that public buildings belong to all of us, do they even count as buildings “of another”? In other words, is it possible to commit a trespass in a public building?
Public buildings aren’t always open to the public. For example, you can’t walk into a public kindergarten class in the middle of the day just to assess the quality of instruction. You can’t amble up to the Governor’s Mansion at 2:00 a.m. on a Tuesday and let yourself in. And you can’t conduct your own inspection of the state’s correctional facilities whenever you choose. You’re not AUTHORIZED to do those things, because it is not the case that all property owned by the government is ‘open to the public.’ Certain areas of publicly-owned buildings may be restricted from public use by a locked door or a front desk, much like the common areas of privately-owned buildings.” People v. Barnes, 41 N.E.3d 336 (N.Y. Ct. App. 2015) (affirming a trespass conviction based on a defendant’s presence in the lobby of a public housing building). See also Wilson v. State, 504 S.W.3d 337 (Tex. Ct. App. 2016) (observing that “governmental entities have the same rights as private property owners to control their properties, so long as the entity’s policies are not employed as a subterfuge for illegal discrimination”).
Public buildings don’t belong to individual members of the public. Just as public employees don’t work for any individual taxpayer (no matter how often a taxpayer tells an employee “I pay your salary”), public buildings don’t belong to any individual member of the public.
Therefore, government buildings are property “of another” for purposes of the trespass laws. As one Texas court put it, in a case involving public grounds, the State satisfies the burden of the ‘of another’ element of the criminal-trespass statute by proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the complainant has a greater right of possession of the property than does the accused.” Wilson v. State, 504 S.W.3d 337 (Tex. Ct. App. 2016).
While closing public buildings to the public generally is not controversial, those in charge of public buildings should be cautious about banning specific individuals. Based on the above, it’s clear that a person may be charged with trespassing when he or she enters a public building that is closed to the public generally, either on a permanent basis (like a prison or a research facility) or at certain hours (like a government office building that closes overnight). See, e.g., United States v. Powell, 563 A.2d 1086 (D.C Ct. App. 1989) (defendants could properly be prosecuted for trespassing on property owned by a municipal transit authority when they refused to leave a metro station after hours)
Things get more complicated when someone in charge of a public building wants to ban a specific individual from the building while allowing other members of the public to access the building. For example, if a person appears in the office of a local tax collector and is disruptive or threatening, the tax collector may wish to bar the person from returning. This sort of circumstance raises all sorts of possible legal issues, some of which are outside my expertise. So, without any claim to completeness, the following ideas may be worth considering:
- Have a good reason. There should be a good reason for banning the person, and everyone who is similarly situated should be treated the same way. Courts seek to “protect all citizens against capricious and arbitrary enforcement of the unlawful entry statutes by public officials so that an individual’s otherwise lawful presence on public property is not conditioned upon the mere whim of a public official.” Eric C. Surette, Burden of proving statutory elements of criminal trespass—Showing of trespass on public property, Am. Jur. Trespass 193.
- Provide some opportunity for the person to be heard before being banned. There is at least some authority suggesting that banning a person without any opportunity to be heard about the ban implicates procedural due process. See Seum v. Osborne, 348 F.Supp.3d 316 (E.D. Ky 2018) (“The unequivocal and permanent ban imposed on [the plaintiff] was sufficiently individualized to trigger due process protections . . . [and to] demand pre-deprivation process.”).
- Don’t ban based on expressive conduct. A ban should not be based on a person’s decision to engage in conduct protected by the First Amendment, such as advocating for a particular point of view. If the person is banned from a building for reasons unrelated to their expressive conduct, they may be charged with trespassing when they re-enter the building, even if they re-enter for the purpose of engaging in expressive conduct. See Pentico v. State, 360 P.3d 359 (Idaho Ct. App. 2015) (arresting the defendant for trespass did not violate the First Amendment; the defendant was prohibited from being in a certain building that was being used temporarily to house the governor’s offices; when he entered that area anyway, he was arrested; he was arrested because of his unauthorized presence, not because of any expressive activity in which he hoped to engage). For additional discussion of some of the First Amendment issues that arise in connection with regulating access to and conduct in courthouses in particular, see this paper by former School of Government faculty member Michael Crowell.
- Provide a means to conduct essential business.
NOW THE FOLLOWING PERTAINS TO OUR TOWN HALL SITUATION. WHAT WOULD WE DO IF THE DMV WOULD NOT ALLOW US TO GO INTO THEIR BUILDINGS; WHAT WOULD WE DO IF WE COULD NOT GO TO THE PROPERTY TAX OFFICE; THEN WE SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO GO INTO A COURT HOUSE…SO NONE OF THIS MAKES SENSE. PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO DO BUSINESS AT TOWN HALL.
- Banning a person from a building that houses essential government functions may be especially challenging. People in control of such buildings may wish to consider less restrictive alternatives to banning a disruptive person, such as requiring the person to be escorted while in the building. See generally Moses v. Oldham, 2016 WL 11249103 (W.D. Tenn. Oct. 17, 2016) (discussing person required to be escorted while in county buildings).
Since there are safety precautions for staff with the plastic and bars, there should be no reason to bar people from entering the small area where business should be handled. We were told by more than one person that they bang on the door and ring a bell and they are still not allowed to discuss business. A person for instance has the right to public records and the individual should be able to discuss and pay their water bill with an immediate receipt especially if it is cash.
Yes the laws have become more restrictive but also, this new staff and our Town Council refuse to provide transparency of any kind and it is not just the Griffins who have complained about the matter. What are these people hiding? They took the cameras out I understand. And as far as I am concerned the entry should be an area where business may be conducted, unless there are too many illegal things to hide.