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2003 Opinions

Page • 2003 Opinions
Date:   January 10, 2003
Prepared By:   Jason Fudge
Phone:   (850) 488-7707
Suncom:   278-7707
Opinion No.:   03-01
Staff Contact:    
MEMORANDUM OPINION
TO: Jimmy Hall
Emergency Management and Security Coordinator
FROM: Daniel Woodring
General Counsel
SUBJECT: Access to State Buildings
RE: Your request for an opinion via e-mail dated September 23, 2002

QUESTION PRESENTED: Can the Department deny access to visitors who do not produce picture identification?

CONCLUSION: Yes, the Department’s policy regarding access to the Turlington Building is reasonable in light of the need to secure the building.

DISCUSSION: Currently, the Department requires all visitors to produce a picture identification and sign-in at the front desk. You have asked whether the Department can deny access to those individuals who refuse to comply with this procedure.

Rule 60H-6.005, Florida Administrative Code, which governs the use of state buildings states:

Except as otherwise expressly provided, all buildings shall be open to the general public during normal working hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday), except state holidays or as the result of a valid emergency. Admission during periods when such property is closed will be limited to authorized person(s) who may be required to sign the register and, if requested by a duly authorized official of the Division of Capitol Police, provide satisfactory evidence of their identity and authorization.

The operative language of this rule is “[e]xcept as otherwise expressly provided . . . .” The Department has provided a policy regarding public access to the Turlington Building that requires visitors to produce picture identification and sign-in before access is granted. This policy addresses a legitimate security and public safety concern that was not present when the rule was last amended in 1996.

The policy does not appear to run afoul of any constitutional issues regarding freedom of expression. This is because not all publicly owned property becomes “a public forum simply because the public is permitted to come and go at will.” United States v. Grace, 461 U.S. 171, 177 (1983).

“The government, no less than a private owner of property, has the power to preserve the property under its control for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated.” Grace, 461 U.S. at 178; see, e.g., Claudio v. United States, 836 F.Supp. 1219, 1224-25 (E.D.N.C.1993)(holding that, for First Amendment purposes, the main entrance lobby of a federal building was a nonpublic forum, considering the nature of the building containing judges’ chambers, courtrooms and federal agencies, the lobby’s minimal compatibility with expressive activity, and the need for security).

The policy also appears to be in compliance with Florida’s open meetings and public records laws. The Department’s policy is reasonable because it is applied to all visitors of the Turlington Building and not just those attending public meetings. See Section 286.011(6), Florida Statutes, (2002). Moreover, the Department’s policy is not designed to preclude review of public records, because it applies to all visitors and is designed to ensure the safety of all occupants of the Turlington Building. See Wait v. Florida Power & Light Company, 372 So.2d 420, 425 (Fla. 1979). Therefore, the Department’s policy is minimally intrusive in light of the security concern it is designed to address.

JF/mak

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