Ron DeSantis Will Pardon COVID Violators. Why Stop There?

There are many other people who deserve such mercy.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday evening that he would move to pardon anyone in the state who flouted mask or social distancing mandates—something that should be welcome news to anyone who supports criminal justice reform.

It likely won't be, at least not among his more energetic detractors. Known by some as "DeathSantis," the governor carved out a reputation during the COVID-19 pandemic for being skeptical of virus-related restrictions. Though the per capita death rate in Florida is not much higher than California's—where even outdoor dining was shuttered for a chunk of the fall and winter—his approach earned him much scorn across the country, with some media outlets contorting themselves in knots to castigate his approach.

But whether or not you're behind the basic tenets of criminal justice reform shouldn't turn on the political persuasion of who is doing the reforming. Catalyzing DeSantis' announcement were the arrests of Mike and Jillian Carnevale, gym owners in Broward County, Florida, who faced up to 120 days in jail for permitting people to exercise sans masks.

"It's a total overreach," said DeSantis on Laura Ingraham's Fox News program, adding that he will issue pardons when he meets with the state's clemency board in the coming months. "These things with health should be advisory, they should not be punitive."

That the government would lock anyone in a cage for allowing other people to make their own choices on face coverings is patently bonkers. Yet the Carnevales are far from the only ones who have fallen victim to an excessively punitive approach. Perhaps DeSantis could apply his newfound attitude on overcriminalization to the many other offenses that have people languishing away behind bars for stupid reasons.

Let's start with the obvious: weed. In Florida, those arrested for marijuana possession under 20 grams face a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison. Those caught with more than 25 grams face up to 15 years behind bars, with a mandatory sentence of three years.

It's likely that DeSantis, a law-and-order Republican, views the Carnevales' crimes as victimless. Are they? Several COVID-19 outbreaks have been traced back to gyms where people forewent masks, including at a gym in Hawaii where 21 people contracted the virus over a three-day period and a gym in Chicago where 55 people contracted it during a week in August. Those gyms implemented social distancing measures, but allowed exercisers to ditch the face coverings.

Such gymgoers may have later given the virus to others. Smoking marijuana, however, is actually victimless—whether or not you agree with the choice morally. Florida has recorded about 36,000 deaths from COVID-19 over the last year; there have been zero recorded deaths from weed in U.S. history.

DeSantis isn't convinced. "Not while I'm governor," he said in 2019 when asked how he felt about legalizing recreational cannabis. "I mean look, when that is introduced with teenagers and young people I think it has a really detrimental effect to their well-being and their maturity." That isn't supported by the evidence. A study released by JAMA Pediatrics found that legalizing the drug may actually cause teens to lose interest in weed, something supported by preliminary data in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon.

But even if DeSantis' claim were true—that recreational cannabis would have some sort of dire influence on teenage maturity—there's a pretty hefty tradeoff involved: people wasting away in prisons and/or buckling under crippling fines for making a personal choice he does not agree with. Arguably more consequential is opting not to wear a mask when exercising, which, in theory, may have spurred someone's untimely death.

If you were wondering where DeSantis stood in the criminal justice discussions happening nationwide since last May, he recently set the tone by signing some new legislation: an "anti-riot" bill. On the surface, it's not all bad—very few serious people are in favor of burning and looting cities. But there are a few troubling components, like the part that prevents anyone arrested of "unlawful assembly" from being released before they go to court. Unlawful assembly is notoriously vague, and essentially allows police officers to arrest anyone protesting, whether or not they actually present a threat. This from the governor who claims to support free speech.

"I think they've been treated poorly," DeSantis said last night, "but fortunately they've got a governor that cares." There are many other people in Florida who have been treated poorly. Does he care about them?

NEXT: After 26 Years of FDA Delays, U.S. Consumers Can Finally Buy Genetically Enhanced AquaBounty Salmon

Overcriminalization Coronavirus Criminal Justice Media Media Criticism Drugs Drug War Florida

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

Please to post comments

58 responses to “Ron DeSantis Will Pardon COVID Violators. Why Stop There?

    1. They look dumber and dumber every day that passes with no crisis in mask-free states. If they were smart they would declare victory and hang the “Mission Accomplished” banner.

      But then again, this isn’t about the virus, is it?

      1. Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can XXX do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
        on this page…..VISIT HERE

    2. Remember when that CDC doctor claimed his mask would protect him better than any vaccine could?

      1. A total moron would think that.

        1. Sᴛᴀʀᴛ ᴡᴏʀᴋɪɴɢ ғʀᴏᴍ ʜᴏᴍᴇ! Gʀᴇᴀᴛ ᴊᴏʙ ғᴏʀ sᴛᴜᴅᴇɴᴛs, sᴛᴀʏ-ᴀᴛ-ʜᴏᴍᴇ ᴍᴏᴍs ᴏʀ ᴀɴʏᴏɴᴇ ɴᴇᴇᴅɪɴɢ ᴀɴ ᴇxᴛʀᴀ ɪɴᴄᴏᴍᴇ… Yᴏᴜ ᴏɴʟʏ ɴᴇᴇᴅ ᴀ ᴄᴏᴍᴘᴜᴛᴇʀ ᴀɴᴅ ᴀ ʀᴇʟɪᴀʙʟᴇ ɪɴᴛᴇʀɴᴇᴛ vgt ᴄᴏɴɴᴇᴄᴛɪᴏɴ… Mᴀᴋᴇ $90 ʜᴏᴜʀʟʏ ᴀɴᴅ ᴜᴘ ᴛᴏ $12000 ᴀ ᴍᴏɴᴛʜ ʙʏ ғᴏʟʟᴏᴡɪɴɢ ʟɪɴᴋ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴏᴛᴛᴏᴍ ᴀɴᴅ sɪɢɴɪɴɢ ᴜᴘ… Yᴏᴜ ᴄᴀɴ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ʏᴏᴜʀ ғɪʀsᴛ ᴄʜᴇᴄᴋ ʙʏ ᴛʜᴇ ᴇɴᴅ ᴏғ ᴛʜɪs ᴡᴇᴇᴋ,go to tech tab for work detail,………. READ MORE

    3. Alright no one is gonna say it I will. Hes pardoning them because the majority in florida who got convicted based on the covid rules were white. If he really wanted to forgive petty crimes he should do jay walking, pot smoking, petty fines for misdemeanors. Why isnt he doing it? its not his people.

  1. ‘DeathSantis’ you think would be hailed by Reason for being the most pro-liberty gov. in the US. Nope, lets instead rationalize Covid penalties and chastise people that freely decided to go to the gym.

    1. Everything Reason publishes makes a lot more sense when you stop considering them libertarians and start considering them leftists.

      1. This. Heaven forfend they note he did something right and proper and just move on.

        Or maybe contrast him with any of the ctrl freaks of the Democrat Party.

        This article is just another exhibition of the Reason double standard in action.

    2. DeSantis is the perfect candidate for the party of assholes, as he further shows by pardoning assholes. If you flouted social distancing and mask rules, you are an asshole.

      1. We must always follow the rules, no matter what!

        1. I pledge allegiance to the United States of America..

          1. Vast difference between allegiance and obedience

            1. Here is Job opportunity for everyone! Because of Corona Work from comfort of your home, on your computer And you can work with your own working hours. You can work this job As part time or As A full time job. You can Earns up to $1000 per Day by way of work is simple on the web. It’s easy, just follow instructions on home page, read it carefully from start to finish Check The Details…… Click here

      2. Well, I’m an asshole then. But we’re all assholes now. What kind of an asshole would presume to tell people to curtail their lives for a year, stop normal social interaction and not work?

        1. Actually if it had been followed religiously, you’d only have to follow social distancing and masking for about 3-4 weeks and the virus would have died out.
          But you didn’t, so it took over a year. Thanks a bunch.

      3. I’ll vote to convict people for thinking assholes should be convicted or it’s a bad thing to pardon assholes far sooner than I would convict anyone for actually being an asshole. The latter is a subjective opinion whereas the former is an objective standard against liberty.

    3. Except this article literally praises him for this act. All they do is point out the inconsistency between his policy on Covid and on marijuana. If your brain wasn’t addled by partisanship you’d be able to see this.

      1. “the inconsistency between his policy on Covid and on marijuana.”

        Really? Tell me which cities, counties or other municipalities in Florida are enforcing their own sets of rules or laws on marijuana use or possession?

  2. Is there a journalism school class for writing articles about hypocrisy? They’re so tiresome. I get it. People have inconsistent principles. But shouting HYPOCRISY from the rooftops just doesn’t interest me anymore.

    1. Of course it doesn’t, because you’re a HYPOCRITE!

      Plus you wouldn’t want Reason to look like they’re cozying up to a Republican. Republicans are icky.

      1. /sarc

  3. Proving that no matter what good anyone does, Reason writers will complain.

    1. Proving that no matter what Reason writers, commenters will complain.

      1. Damn, have you ever gotten up in the morning and looked at yourself in the mirror?

  4. Would we accept a Democrat or any other singular politician just hand waving away punishment for criminal acts in other cases?

    I think it’s long past time to just do away with pardons entirely. Leaving that much power in one person is a recipe for disaster (see Bevin in KY pardoning absolute lunatics). Move pardons to at least 3 person tribunals or other.

    1. 3 person tribunals run by democrats in your demented mind, leftie shit.

    2. Would we accept a Democrat or any other singular politician just hand waving away punishment for criminal acts in other cases?

      You mean like burning down black neighborhoods and burning black children?

      1. Or using intel agencies to spy on political opponents?
        Or making up lies to ruin people’s lives?
        Or shooting unarmed women?
        Or taking bribes to influence foreign policy?

        Just off the top of my head.

    3. Yes, duh. Drug possession, prostitution, gambling. I think most libertarians would applaud mass pardons for these things and others. When it comes to highly questionable emergency orders (that don’t appear to have been particularly effective), it’s a no brainer.

    4. “Move pardons to at least 3 person tribunals or other”

      Then you’re in luck, since the Florida constitution requires “the approval of two members of the cabinet” before the governor can grant a pardon. (Art. IV, Sec. 8(a).)

      Though I personally am in favor of criminal justice reform and therefore support broad clemency powers by the elected chief executive.

    5. “Would we accept a Democrat or any other singular politician just hand waving away punishment for criminal acts in other cases?”

      Absolutely… [and what the hell does Party have to do with it] particularly since those being pardoned merely violated authoritarian dictates of local tyrants. Where the hell did you get the idea that mayors or city councils have any authority to imprison people for violating non-legislative dictates and their personal whims? And if the Party roles were reversed, you’d be all for the pardon because if nothing else, you’re predictable and a blind rubber stamp for tribal authority so long as it is your tribe.

      Local fines or even shut downs for violating ordinances that have been duly passed is one thing. But non-compliance with the whims of whatever derp managed to win a mayoral race should never be a criminal matter and wouldn’t even be considered as prosecutable except by some politically charged DA who thinks he’s worthy of being part of the iron fisted power-elite. Hell, these clown asses who are even trying to put people in jail for such things should be at least barred from public office for life, but preferably also convicted for abuse of power.

      The pardon power is entirely appropriate here, because even though these people would likely win in at least a superior court, they shouldn’t have to suffer the cost of dealing with the personal vengeance of butt-hurt local tyrants who are mad at anyone who disrespected their power trip.

  5. At least DeSantis is doing something. More than Reason’s liberal hero Biden. But DeSantis is a “America First” politician, so Reason must try to attack him.
    Sorry justice is blind, justice will never be totally fair and the laws like the marijuana law were not made under or signed by DeSantis. It is up to the legislature to put legislation on his desk if they want that changed.

    1. I agree totally. I wouldn’t have an issue with some sort of pardon in certain cases where weed was the issue. Even within the context of current law, there are obviously going to be cases of abuse of process or some other situation where justice has been grossly misapplied. However, the idea of pardoning everyone who had an infraction with weed is beyond stupid and better left for legislative rather than executive action. Pardons are to rectify isolated abuses of power and one-off cases, not for broad nullification of existing law across an entire population.

      My bigger problem with articles such as this is when the author makes absolutely absurd claims and wild speculation, and purposely advances bullshit as fact, merely for the purpose of setting up his point [also bullshit] about the real target of his article… [everyone together now…] weed.

      Yes, Billy’s fascination and OCD about everything weed means that like those who pass every subject through the filter of racism, Billy’s obsession puts directs everything through the filter of weed. Billy, get a hobby man.

      1] Billy tempers his approval of the pardons to the point of hesitancy by speculating without cause or incident that maybe people coulda mighta have gotten COVID, died, and that if it had happened, it would have been because no mask rather than people’s lack of sanitation… therefore GUILT. To suggest some minimal level of rationale for his admitted fantasy and speculation, he suggests further speculation from at least 3rd hand information about a case in Hawaii and Chicago, and passively asserts that therefore nobody can deny the Florida man’s culpability in events that didn’t even happen. Hell, Billy’s stories [purposeful use of that term] make the History Channels stacked speculations about how aliens visit Earth look like peer-reviewed research.

      2] I have no delusions that Billy or his fellow obsessed minions won’t continue to bullshit their way through it, but statements such as “there have been zero recorded deaths from weed in U.S. history” is said is only true in the tightest of definitions of overdose. Nobody ever died from owning a car either.

      When we discuss alcohol deaths, most consider the alcohol use deaths [95K], not the alcohol toxicity deaths [2K]. The same should be said for any deaths caused by how people use [including abuse] the product.

      None of that means I give a damn about whether Billy or anyone else smokes their ass off and I don’t think it should be anymore legal or illegal than booze. Whether someone is a functional/recreational user or sits at home in a stupor is something I couldn’t care less about so long as they aren’t endangering others including children… or forcing me to pay for their upkeep. But can we just dispense with the bullshit stats and quit trying to leverage every damn thing as though it was a pathway to weed legalization?

      Frankly, putting everything to the weed test is just as tiresome as putting everything to the racist test, and both arguments start to lose their value in public perception. Let the arguments rest on their own merit and there will be a much faster societal morph than if everything you say inspires the same damn bugle call.

      1. Reading through Billy Binions articles is like going through a laundry list of favorite logical fallacies, complete with examples. The very name REASON suggests that writers avoid logical fallacy wherever possible and are held to some level of the universal standards of responsible journalism. Unfortunately, the standards here tend to be on par with media sources such as the cable and broadcast networks where facts are subject to opinion and the opportunity to write an article is no longer about cogent writing to inform, but now writing to speculate and bias opinionate.

  6. At least DeSantis is doing something. More than Reason’s liberal hero Biden. But DeSantis is a “America First” politician, so Reason must try to attack and destroy him.
    Sorry justice is blind, justice will never be totally fair and the laws like the marijuana law were not made under or signed by DeSantis. It is up to the legislature to put legislation on his desk if they want that changed.

    1. Bigoted, half-educated, right-wing clingers are among my favorite culture war casualties.

      Carry on, clingers — but only so far as your betters in modern America permit. And you will comply.

      1. Lazy, retarded, boring, repetitive blather. You’re the reason we got a mute button, brainless catamite.

    2. Bullshit hes doing this to protect his base who were out getting convicted for being covid deniers.

  7. At least DeSantis is doing something. More than Reason’s liberal hero Biden. But DeSantis is an “America First” politician, so Reason must try to attack and destroy him.
    Sorry justice is blind, justice will never be totally fair and the laws like the marijuana law were not made under or signed by DeSantis. It is up to the legislature to put legislation on his desk if they want that changed.

  8. Selective enforcement or pardons is not criminal justice reform. The only true reform is to remove those laws from the books. All laws should be applied equally. If is ok to not enforce a law against some people the it is not ok to enforce it against anyone. Also a governor issuing blanket pardons is them doing a run around the legislative body.

    1. He is working within the scope of his job, not writing executive orders.

    2. Im not gonna cry when an exec uses his power to decriminalize stupid nanny laws and protect individuals liberty.

    3. IIRC these were penalties imposed by local jurisdictions not pursuant to state law or the governor’s emergency powers. This is a completely legitimate action by DiSantis. Cities and counties are political subdivisions of the state.

      1. EXACTLY.

        Binion the idiot does not understand this. (Or maybe he didn’t even bother to think about it, since he is just writing down what he is told to write.)

        IF cities or counties in Florida were punishing marijuana offenses in excess of what State law allows then DeSantis would be justified in pardoning or otherwise granting clemency.

        All he is doing is ensuring that State law applies equally to everyone in Florida.

      2. First of bot you and ThomasD are idiots the law gets punished diffrently evreywhere. Look at criminal convictions based on race compare them in cities to backcountry. I dont see him going out of his way to fix injustice by pardoning or commuting that.

  9. I’m torn on this. It sorta reeks of fascism because it’s Dear Leader putting his special people outside of the law but I support forgiving people.

    1. I think it’s very sensible. These were temporary emergency measures. When the emergency is over, it’s time to let people have their lives back.

      1. Yep and it’s not like these folk got away with being assholes. They presumably arrested or ticketed. That’s probably good enough for me.

        Now, I’m running a campaign against Desantis I would cut in video of the most blatant and obnoxious mask assholes in action and then tie that behaviour to virus spread and death. Desantis is the leader of the unpatriotic selfish asshole party.

        1. “Desantis is the leader of the unpatriotic selfish asshole party.”

          You’ll have to narrow that down a bit.

          Or I suppose you’re going to say that *your* party doesn’t deserve the name of selfish asshole party.

        2. The death rate in Florida, with an older population, is on par with California .

  10. DiSantis lifted all statewide covid restrictions in Sept. of 2020. Some local governments continued to impose penalties.


      1. And
        Well you get the point. Bottom line, Florida is no worse off than any state that did in continue restrictions. DiSantis was right then and he’s right now.

  11. I praise just pardons as an exception to the unjust system. I note the inconsistency, the lack of principle shown by most politicians and bureaucrats. I praised Ron Paul for his consistency and contrasted his adherence to the principle of non-aggression against all others. He is a beacon of reason in a sea of chaos.
    I note voting is a terrible way to find principled rulers. But I don’t acknowledge the right of anyone to rule, i.e., to govern by force over reason, rights, choice.

  12. Or using intel agencies to spy on political opponents?
    Or making up lies to ruin people’s lives?
    Or shooting unarmed women?
    Or taking bribes to influence foreign policy?

Comments are closed.