Hurricane Irma

Those with outstanding warrants at Florida shelters will be escorted to jail, sheriff's office warns

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Sheriff Grady Judd / Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

A Florida sheriff is standing by controversial tweets warning that IDs will be checked at hurricane shelters and those with warrants will be escorted to jail.

The tweets, posted Wednesday, resulted in critical comments and national press coverage, report the New York Times, the Tampa Bay Times, the Washington Post, Fox13, News 8 and the Orlando Sentinel.

Public information officer Carrie Eleazer Horstman told the Tampa Bay Times she wrote the tweets. But the sheriff was standing by the message nonetheless.

“If you show up at a shelter, we’re going to shelter you safely, but it’s going to be in the county jail because we have a legal obligation to execute the warrant,” Judd told Fox 13. He says the tweets are intended to warn offenders that they should take care of minor infractions before going to shelters.

Judd told News Channel 8 he was surprised by the criticism. “Never before did I think that we’d be beat up for giving people a warning and keeping people safe, but hey, that’s okay,” he said. “There was a lot of hype. It’s important to understand that if you’re a sexual predator and a sexual offender, we’re not going to let you sleep next to any 5-year-old babies.”

Horstman told the Orlando Sentinel she hoped the tweets would encourage people to go to shelters because they know they will be safe. Officers are required to take anyone with a warrant into custody, and they aren’t able to see whether a warrant is for a lesser crime such as a nonviolent misdemeanor, she said.

She told the New York Times that people in some misdemeanor cases could turn themselves in and be released on bond before the hurricane. It is normal protocol to have an accountability log at shelters and to know the names of each person going in, she said. Asked whether immigration status would be checked, Horstman answered, “No, we are not concerned about that.”

Floridians who fail to obey mandatory evacuation orders could also face jail time—though it’s unlikely—under a Florida statute, according to ABA Legal Fact Check, a website intended to help the public sort fact from fiction. A press release is here and a list of areas under evacuation orders is here.

The Florida law says those who ignore mandatory evacuation orders could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Such laws have been upheld by courts but they are rarely enforced. And the laws differ from state to state.

Hat tip to the Marshall Project.

Updated at 1 p.m. to include information on mandatory evacuation orders.

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