BCSO answers questions surrounding recent arrest based on Florida statute

Local News

LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — On November 9th the Bay County Sheriff’s Office arrested one man based on a Florida statute while filming near two schools located on Minnesota Avenue.

Deputies arrested Jason Gutterman. BCSO sent out a release on Saturday addressing questions that have come up surrounding this arrest.

Read the full release below:

“On November 9, 2021, at about 2:45 pm, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office received a call from an employee of UPS, located on Minnesota Avenue, in Lynn Haven. Two schools are also located on Minnesota Avenue-Mosley High School and New Horizons Learning Center.

The caller stated there were two men on the sidewalk outside the UPS facility, video-taping. Concerned, the caller had tried to talk to the men to find out why they were there, but the two men refused to explain. A BCSO deputy at a nearby school, concerned about the presence of two men near two schools at dismissal time, approached the two men.

The two men were not forthcoming with any information to satisfy the concerns the deputy had and a supervisor was called to the scene. Based on the lack of information from the two men, the fact there were two schools nearby, and that students had just been dismissed and were walking through the area, the deputies arrested one of the men based on Florida State Statute 810.0975, which states:

‘…Each principal or designee of each public or private school in this state shall notify the appropriate law enforcement agency to prohibit any person from loitering in the school safety zone who does not have legitimate business in the school safety zone or any other authorization, or license to enter or remain in the school safety zone or does not otherwise have invitee status in the designated safety zone.(b)1. During the period from 1 hour prior to the start of a school session until 1 hour after the conclusion of a school session, it is unlawful for any person to enter the premises or trespass within a school safety zone or to remain on such premises or within such school safety zone when that person does not have legitimate business in the school safety zone or any other authorization, license, or invitation to enter or remain in the school safety zone.’

Based upon this statute, deputies arrested Jason Gutterman. Upon First Appearance before a judge, charges against Gutterman were dropped.

Questions have arisen about this arrest which should be answered.

In 2008, this statute was ruled in a case in South Florida as unconstitutionally vague. In 2013, the problems identified within the statute were corrected by the Florida Legislature and it remains a viable part of Florida State Statute. In the times in which we live, work, and send children to school, law enforcement must navigate challenges with a respect for Constitutional rights, and a laser-like commitment to protect the vulnerable.

In this case, it was the children attending two schools just across the street from two men whose simple cooperation could have quickly ended this incident. BCSO deputies provided ample opportunity for the men to ease the concerns deputies had about why they were in the School Safety Zone. Despite historical questions about Florida State 810.0975, BCSO deputies decided to err on the side of caution and remove Gutterman from the School Safety Zone.

They believed it was more important to protect the students from potential harm than it was to protect their reputations from any potential damage they would face on social media. Florida State Statute 810.0975 is a chargeable criminal offense. As such, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office could choose to pursue this charge against Gutterman, but has decided not to do so.

The Bay County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to constitutional policing, and protecting the rights of the people we serve. Our deputies have received specialized training to ensure they protect constitutional rights and, in light of this incident, we will be adding to our training curriculum.”

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