Section 253.04, Florida Statutes 2001
253.04 Duty of board to protect, etc., state lands; state may join in any action brought.--
(1) The Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund may police; protect; conserve; improve; and prevent trespass, damage, or depredation upon the lands and the products thereof, on or under the same, owned by the state as set forth in s. 253.03. The board may bring in the name of the board all suits in ejectment, suits for damage, and suits in trespass which in the judgment of the board may be necessary to the full protection and conservation of such lands, or it may take such other action or do such other things as may in its judgment be necessary for the full protection and conservation of such lands; and the state may join with the board in any action or suit, or take part in any proceeding, when it may deem necessary, in the name of this state through the Department of Legal Affairs.
(2) In lieu of seeking monetary damages pursuant to subsection (1) against any person or the agent of any person who has been found to have willfully damaged lands of the state, the ownership or boundaries of which have been established by the state, to have willfully damaged or removed products thereof in violation of state or federal law, to have knowingly refused to comply with or willfully violated the provisions of this chapter, or to have failed to comply with an order of the board to remove or alter any structure or vessel that is not in compliance with applicable rules or with conditions of authorization to locate such a structure or vessel on state-owned land, the board may impose a fine for each offense in an amount up to $10,000 to be fixed by rule and imposed and collected by the board in accordance with the provisions of chapter 120. Each day during any portion of which such violation occurs constitutes a separate offense. This subsection does not apply to any act or omission which is currently subject to litigation wherein the state or any agency of the state is a party as of October 1, 1984, or to any person who holds such lands under color of title. Nothing contained herein impairs the rights of any person to obtain a judicial determination in a court of competent jurisdiction of such person's interest in lands that are the subject of a claim or proceeding by the department under this subsection.
(3) The Department of Environmental Protection is authorized to develop by rule a schedule for the assessment of civil penalties for damage to coral reefs in state waters. The highest penalty shall not exceed $1,000 per square meter of reef area damaged. The schedule may include additional penalties for aggravating circumstances, not to exceed $250,000 per occurrence. A determination of aggravating circumstances shall be based on factors relating to the cause of the damage such as, but not limited to:
(a) Absence of extenuating circumstances, such as weather conditions or other factors beyond the control of the vessel operator.
(b) Disregard for safe boating practices.
(c) Whether the vessel operator was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
(d) Navigational error.
(e) Disregard for speed limits or other boating regulations.
(f) Failure to use available charts and equipment or to have such equipment on board.
(g) Willful or intentional nature of the violation.
(h) Previous coral reef damage caused by the vessel operator.
Penalties assessed according to this section may be doubled for damage to coral reefs located within the boundaries of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
(4) Whenever any person or the agent of any person knowingly refuses to comply with or willfully violates any of the provisions of this chapter so that such person causes damage to the lands of the state or products thereof, including removal of those products, such violator is liable for such damage. Whenever two or more persons or their agents cause damage, and if such damage is indivisible, each violator is jointly and severally liable for such damage; however, if such damage is divisible and may be attributed to a particular violator or violators, each violator is liable only for that damage and subject to the fine attributable to his or her violation.
(5) If a person or the person's agent as described in subsection (2) fails to comply with an order of the board to remove or alter a structure on state-owned land, the board may alter or remove the structure and recover the cost of the removal or alteration from such person.
(6) All fines imposed and damages awarded pursuant to this section are a lien upon the real and personal property of the violator or violators, enforceable by the Department of Environmental Protection as are statutory liens under chapter 85.
(7) All moneys collected pursuant to fines imposed or damages awarded pursuant to this section shall be deposited into the Internal Improvement Trust Fund created by s. 253.01 and used for the purposes defined in that section.
History.--s. 2, ch. 15642, 1931; CGL 1936 Supp. 1446(14); s. 11, ch. 25035, 1949; s. 2, ch. 61-119; ss. 11, 27, 35, ch. 69-106; s. 11, ch. 84-79; s. 2, ch. 89-174; s. 10, ch. 89-175; s. 2, ch. 91-175; s. 15, ch. 91-286; s. 70, ch. 94-356; s. 844, ch. 95-148.