Florida “Murderabilia” and “Son of Sam” Laws

It is the times really, crime fascinates our society, and the morbid curiosity for all things crime can be nauseating at extreme levels. The biggest culprits for the advance of this crime fascination are the media and cinema. Heinous crimes get plenty of media attention, prime networks fall over each other to get exclusives from daunting criminals, and American cinema makes a killing from crime-themed movies. However, beyond the crime-craze in the media and cinema, interest gets acute to the extent of people going to great lengths to collect criminal paraphernalia sold by imprisoned criminals. The fancy name for these criminal paraphernalia is “murderabilia.”

The Term “Murderabilia”

In general, “murderabilia” is a blanket term to describe artifacts (tools or substances) used or proceeds from crime son of sam law | Kenneth Padowitz, P.A. | South Florida criminal Lawyerinvolved in a crime. However, the term may also refer to creative pieces, for example, paintings, books, or memoirs; produced by the criminal. The major reason behind collecting the creative items by the criminal is to get an enlightened take on the personality and mind pattern of the criminal, or to put it more plainly to understand the “twisted mind” of the criminal. That is not the only reason though. Sometimes, some collectors may wish to analyze the items in hopes of unraveling possible links between the items and other unsolved crimes linked to the criminal. Yet for a sizeable percentage of collectors, it is simply about an eccentric, though morbid, desire to hold a relic of history.

“Son of Sam” Law and First Amendment Rights

Unsurprisingly, there is quite a market for the artworks and murderabilia of well-known convicted criminals. Nonetheless, it does constitute significant worry if the law allows unfettered trade of such macabre merchandise that could very well lead to the criminals making fortunes going by the volume of interest. To this end, states enacted “Son of Sam” laws and related bills to prohibit famed killers from making substantial proceeds off the crime they committed. The original draft of the “Son of Sam” laws was in the ‘70s. The original draft was in response to the serial killer David Berkowitz almost closing deals that involved him selling his story to book publishers. The law sought to do the more humane thing of seizing the proceeds from the sale and redistribute said funds to the families of the victims. Nonetheless, the law has had its own share of legal turbulence as a Supreme Court ruling opined that the laws infringed on the First Amendment rights of the imprisoned criminals. Regardless of the ruling, momentum for such laws have not waned as several laws still exist to limit the financial benefits prisoners could make from their dark horrendous acts and stories.

Florida Lien Law on Sharing of Proceeds from Artistic or Literary Account of One’s Crime

In the state of Florida, a proceeds-lien law exists. It stipulates the exact sharing structure of proceeds from any artwork, particularly, cinematic or literary accounts of the events of a crime.

The Details

  1. The dependents of the felon would receive TWENTY-FIVE (25) PERCENT of the proceeds.
    1. If the felon does not have dependents, then the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund, a fund that compensates victims of crimes in Florida, would receive this share.
  2. The victim(s) of the crime would receive TWENTY-FIVE (25) PERCENT of the proceeds, to the extent that the court ascertained damages to be.
    1. If the victim(s) are unable to receive the proceeds, the dependents of the victims would receive the share.
    2. If the damages ascertained by the court are less than twenty-five (25) percent, the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund would receive the extra (remainder)
  3. The rest of the proceeds will be used to foot the court costs associated with the following:
    1. Prosecution of the convicted felon
    2. Jury fees
    3. Per diem for Florida prosecuting attorneys
    4. Court reporter fees, et cetera
  4. The remainder after all above transactions have been made would go to the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund