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11th U.S Circuit to Rehear “Docs v. Glocks” Law in Florida

Florida is one of the more pro-gun states in the nation. Pro-gun measures that have been enacted and protected over the last decade have pushed forward, making laws like “Stand Your Ground” and open-carry and concealed carry legislation more broad-reaching. The most recent controversy to hit Florida is related to the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, more colloquially known as the “Docs v. Glocks law”. Under the Docs v. Glocks Law, Florida physicians may not discuss a patient’s gun ownership, even if it may relate to a patient’s long-term health risks. The law, which was affirmed in 2014, will be revisited by the 11th U.S. Circuit to determine whether it is constitutional.

The Procedural History of Docs v. Glocks

The Docs v. Glocks law, which had originally been signed into law by Governor Rick Scott back in 2011, has been bounced back and forth around the Courts since its initial signing. In 2012, a federal judge nixed the law for First Amendment reasons, stating that the law was infringing on the medical profession’s right to speech, especially as the ownership of a gun is pertinent to health risks and factors, especially where children are within the household.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Decision in 2014

In 2014, a three-judge panel in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling in a 2-1 decision, holding that the purpose behind the law was not to regulate or deny speech, but to improve the quality of medical care. The holding suggested that there was anecdotal evidence to suggest that doctors were refusing to work with patients because of their gun ownership and that there was rampant discrimination by physicians against gun owners. Overall, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated that there was no “gag order” or violation of a physician’s First Amendment rights, and that this law was only an inconsequential infringement. The physicians, on the other hand, believed that this law limited the rights of the medical profession to discuss any issue that they believed medically relevant.

Penalties Under the Current Law

According to current law, as determined in 2014, any Florida physician who discusses or inquires about gun ownership of a patient will either have his/her license revoked or be charged a fine of $10,000. Opponents of the law state that the law is overly broad and vague and any indirect inquiry could be misinterpreted and lead to a form of harassment and significant punishment.

Why Would the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Revisit this Law?

The battle over Docs v. Glocks law is not finished yet. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to rehear the case, but this time with their full 11-member court, not a three-judge panel as it did in 2014. Most likely the 11th Circuit will wish to rehear the case as First Amendment rights are protected as one of the most fundamental and require that any government intrusion into those rights needs to be evaluated under a “strict scrutiny” standard, which requires that the legislation, if it is going to limit the freedom of speech rights, must satisfy a compelling government interest and must be so narrowly tailored. In other words, to be able to limit speech, the interest of the government has to be of utmost important (for example, public safety), and the legislation being proposed to limit freedom of speech must be pinpointed directly to the actual purpose that the legislation is looking to serve.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Pro-gun measures impact the way in which we view gun ownership and the use of guns. If you have been involved in a crime that deals with gun use, open/concealed carrying a firearm, or other gun-related offenses, it is important to speak with an experienced defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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