Florida Might Have Accidentally Outlawed the Internet, Cell Phones

In March, an illegal gambling ring run out of internet cafés ensnared 57 people on racketeering charges and led to the downfall of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. Florida's legislators quickly jumped into the mess, rushing to pass a bill to outlaw online gambling cafés.

Only problem? In their haste to act, they might have accidentally outlawed the entire internet, all computers, and every cell phone in the state.

That's the claim, at least, behind a new lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court that argues the law is so absurdly broad as written that it must be tossed.

"They rushed to judgment and... essentially criminalized everything," Miami attorney Justin Kaplan tells the Tampa Bay Times.

The problem, Kaplan argues, is that the law defines illegal slot machines as "any system or network of devices" that could be used in a game of chance. That's such a wide definition that pretty much any cell phone or computer that connects to the internet -- including "the ones [the Florida Legislature] used to draft this legislation," Kaplan says -- are technically illegal.

Famed Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz helped Kaplan craft his suit, which is filed against Miami-Dade Attorney General Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

The legal team says the law violates due process because Rundle and other attorney generals can choose to go after an internet café but allow patrons at coffee shops or walking the streets to use phones and computers that just as easily could be used in online gambling.

The law faces other challenges in South Florida, including a recent suit arguing that it also accidentally outlawed videogame complexes such as Dave & Busters.

So, to review what's now illegal in Florida: cell phones, computers, the interwebs, videogames. Any worries about that bill you passed, Florida Leg?

"It's good policy," Speaker Will Weatherford tells the Tampa Bay Times.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.