Miami-Dade law barring petition-drive lies is struck down

Monday, August 4, 2008

MIAMI — An ordinance making it a crime punishable by fines and jail to lie
during petition drives in Miami-Dade County has been struck down by a federal

U.S. District Judge Alan Gold ruled on Aug. 1 that the ordinance’s threat of
arrest acts as a deterrent to free speech and violates the First Amendment. Gold
also said the ordinance was vague and gave too much discretion to law
enforcement officials.

The ordinance “prohibits much more than submitting false objective
information — it criminalizes subjective political statements,” Gold wrote in Dermer
v. Miami-Dade County.

The anti-lying ordinance was passed two years ago after Miami-Dade Mayor
Carlos Alvarez won a petition drive to boost the power of the mayor's office.
Alvarez vetoed the ordinance, but the county commission overrode his veto.

The lawsuit challenging the ordinance was filed last year by former Miami
Beach Mayor David Dermer.

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