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Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rules that Florida Security of Communications Act did not apply to plaintiff's recording of meeting with police chief

On July 12, 2017, in McDonough v. Fernandez-Rundle, No. 15-14642, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s dismissal of a plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 civil rights case, holding that the district court erred in ruling in assuming that the Florida Security of Communications Act, Fla. Stat. Section 943.03, applied to the plaintiff’s recording of his meeting with the chief of the Homestead Police Department (“HPD”). The plaintiff had met with police chief in the chief’s office to discuss the plaintiff’s grievances against one of the HPD officers. During the meeting, the plaintiff placed his cell phone on the desk and proceeded to record the conversation, later posting portions of the conversation on YouTube. The State Attorney’s Office then sent the plaintiff a letter threatening criminal prosecution under Section 943.03. In response, the plaintiff filed the Section 1983 lawsuit seeking injunctive relief from being prosecuted under Section 943.03. The district court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that the First Amendment protected him from being prosecuted under Section 943.03, but failing to expressly address the underlying issue of whether Section 943.03 even applied to the plaintiff’s actions. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that it did not for two independent reasons, noting that the statute requires the party uttering the intercepted communication to have an expectation of privacy in the conversation and that the there is a specific exception in the statute for statements “uttered at a public meeting.”