2004 Florida Statutes
Reports of alleged violations to Florida Elections Commission; disposition of findings.
(1) Jurisdiction to investigate and determine violations of this chapter and chapter 104 is vested in the Florida Elections Commission; however, nothing in this section limits the jurisdiction of any other officers or agencies of government empowered by law to investigate, act upon, or dispose of alleged violations of this code.
(2) The commission shall investigate all violations of this chapter and chapter 104, but only after having received either a sworn complaint or information reported to it under this subsection by the Division of Elections. Any person, other than the division, having information of any violation of this chapter or chapter 104 shall file a sworn complaint with the commission. The commission shall investigate only those alleged violations specifically contained within the sworn complaint. If any complainant fails to allege all violations that arise from the facts or allegations alleged in a complaint, the commission shall be barred from investigating a subsequent complaint from such complainant that is based upon such facts or allegations that were raised or could have been raised in the first complaint. Such sworn complaint shall state whether a complaint of the same violation has been made to any state attorney. Within 5 days after receipt of a sworn complaint, the commission shall transmit a copy of the complaint to the alleged violator. All sworn complaints alleging violations of the Florida Election Code over which the commission has jurisdiction shall be filed with the commission within 2 years after the alleged violations. The period of limitations is tolled on the day a sworn complaint is filed with the commission.
(3) For the purposes of commission jurisdiction, a violation shall mean the willful performance of an act prohibited by this chapter or chapter 104 or the willful failure to perform an act required by this chapter or chapter 104.
(4) The commission shall undertake a preliminary investigation to determine if the facts alleged in a sworn complaint or a matter initiated by the division constitute probable cause to believe that a violation has occurred. The respondent, the complainant, and their respective counsels shall be permitted to attend the hearing at which the probable cause determination is made. Notice of the hearing shall be sent to the respondent and the complainant at least 14 days prior to the date of the hearing. The respondent and his or her counsel shall be permitted to make a brief oral statement in the nature of oral argument to the commission before the probable cause determination. The commission's determination shall be based upon the investigator's report, the complaint, and staff recommendations, as well as any written statements submitted by the respondent and any oral statements made at the hearing. No testimony or other evidence shall be accepted at the hearing. Upon completion of the preliminary investigation, the commission shall, by written report, find probable cause or no probable cause to believe that this chapter or chapter 104 has been violated.
(a) If no probable cause is found, the commission shall dismiss the case and the case shall become a matter of public record, except as otherwise provided in this section, together with a written statement of the findings of the preliminary investigation and a summary of the facts which the commission shall send to the complainant and the alleged violator.
(b) If probable cause is found, the commission shall so notify the complainant and the alleged violator in writing. All documents made or received in the disposition of the complaint shall become public records upon a finding by the commission.
In a case where probable cause is found, the commission shall make a preliminary determination to consider the matter or to refer the matter to the state attorney for the judicial circuit in which the alleged violation occurred.
(5) When there are disputed issues of material fact in a proceeding conducted under ss. 120.569 and 120.57, a person alleged by the Elections Commission to have committed a violation of this chapter or chapter 104 may elect, within 30 days after the date of the filing of the commission's allegations, to have a hearing conducted by an administrative law judge in the Division of Administrative Hearings.
(6) It is the duty of a state attorney receiving a complaint referred by the commission to investigate the complaint promptly and thoroughly; to undertake such criminal or civil actions as are justified by law; and to report to the commission the results of such investigation, the action taken, and the disposition thereof. The failure or refusal of a state attorney to prosecute or to initiate action upon a complaint or a referral by the commission shall not bar further action by the commission under this chapter.
(7) Every sworn complaint filed pursuant to this chapter with the commission, every investigation and investigative report or other paper of the commission with respect to a violation of this chapter or chapter 104, and every proceeding of the commission with respect to a violation of this chapter or chapter 104 is confidential, is exempt from the provisions of ss. 119.07(1) and 286.011, and is exempt from publication in the Florida Administrative Weekly of any notice or agenda with respect to any proceeding relating to such violation, except under the following circumstances:
(a) As provided in subsection (6);
(b) Upon a determination of probable cause or no probable cause by the commission; or
(c) For proceedings conducted with respect to appeals of fines levied by filing officers for the late filing of reports required by this chapter.
However, a complainant is not bound by the confidentiality provisions of this section. In addition, confidentiality may be waived in writing by the person against whom the complaint has been filed or the investigation has been initiated. If a finding of probable cause in a case is entered within 30 days prior to the date of the election with respect to which the alleged violation occurred, such finding and the proceedings and records relating to such case shall not become public until noon of the day following such election. When two or more persons are being investigated by the commission with respect to an alleged violation of this chapter or chapter 104, the commission may not publicly enter a finding of probable cause or no probable cause in the case until a finding of probable cause or no probable cause for the entire case has been determined. However, once the confidentiality of any case has been breached, the person or persons under investigation have the right to waive the confidentiality of the case, thereby opening up the proceedings and records to the public. Any person who discloses any information or matter made confidential by the provisions of this subsection commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083
(8) Any person who files a complaint pursuant to this section while knowing that the allegations contained in such complaint are false or without merit commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083
History.--s. 25, ch. 73-128; s. 11, ch. 74-200; s. 60, ch. 77-175; s. 3, ch. 78-403; s. 1, ch. 82-46; s. 2, ch. 83-265; s. 39, ch. 84-302; s. 20, ch. 89-256; ss. 5, 14, 15, ch. 90-338; s. 21, ch. 90-360; s. 18, ch. 91-107; s. 5, ch. 91-429; s. 26, ch. 96-406; s. 49, ch. 97-13; s. 34, ch. 98-129; s. 21, ch. 2004-252.