April 2, 2020

Stay At Home Directive For “Senior Citizens” Under Florida Executive Order No. 20-91

Stay At Home Directive For “Senior Citizens” Under Florida Executive Order No. 20-91

by William D. Stokes and William J. Dunaway

It is widely understood that elderly individuals are at particular risk during the current pandemic. Governor DeSantis issued EO #20-91 on April 1, 2020 which limits various interpersonal activities in the continuing effort of governmental authorities to quell the spread of COVID-19. Section 1 of the order (entitled “Safer At Home”) provides that “Senior citizens and individuals with a significant underlying medical condition…shall stay at home” to limit their risk of exposure. While the order enumerates specific examples of “underlying medical conditions” (e.g., asthma, cancer, diabetes), it does not define the phrase. It also does not define “senior citizens” subject to this directive.

Depending on the context, the term “senior citizen” has varying meanings under Florida law. For example, a consumer protection statute (Fla. Stat. Section 501.2077) defines “senior citizen” as a person 60 years of age or older, while another statute (Fla. Stat. Section 258.016) authorizes state park camping permits to be issued free of charge to seniors defined as citizens 65 years of age or older. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs currently services citizens age 60 and older. On the other hand, federal CDC guidelines for COVID-19 preparedness discard the term “senior citizen” in favor of “older adults,” defined there as persons 65 years and older. Likewise, Medicare coverage is available for “seniors” age 65 or older and Fla. Stat. 196.075 provides an additional homestead exemption for persons 65 and older. The latter is generally referred to as the “senior citizen” exemption.

On balance, it appears that 65 years of age is the prevailing qualification for senior citizen status in Florida. This is the age the Governor mentioned in his press conference announcing the order and that the Escambia County sheriff cited in his video response to EO #20-91. Hours after EO #20-91 was signed, the Governor’s Office issued a subsequent amendment to clarify the intent of Section 4 in EO #20-91 (entitled “Local Orders in Response to COVID-19”). However, that amendment does not define a “senior citizen” as referenced in Section 1.

Without a clear, internal definition of “senior citizen” in Section 1 of EO #20-91, enforcement authority is limited by constitutional constraints. If criminal penalties are sought to be imposed for violations, this provision will be subject to due process challenge as void for vagueness given the lack of clarity as to who qualifies as a “senior citizen” for purposes of the Stay-At-Home directive. The Governor’s Office should issue a clarification.

Meanwhile, businesses in the State must grapple with the definition because the EO goes into effect at midnight (12:01am on April 3, 2020) and the State’s businesses may have an obligation to send “senior citizens” home to be compliant with EO #20-91, even if those “senior citizens” are employees of a business providing essential services.

If you have a specific question related to this issue or other essential business issues, the attorneys at Clark Partington are working in compliance with EO #20-91 and available to answer your legal questions.

View & Download:
EXECUTIVE ORDER from Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis


Download a printable PDF of this news release.


William D. Stokes is a member of the firm’s commercial litigation department. He concentrates his practice in the areas of real property litigation, land use and zoning, environmental law, and creditors’ rights. He regularly represents homeowners’ associations, developers and private landowners in beach access disputes and related litigation matters. He also has experience in complex commercial foreclosures and other loan enforcement matters, as well as in commercial landlord-tenant litigation. Contact Will at 850-208-7038 or wstokes@clarkpartington.com.

William J. Dunaway practices primarily in the area of environmental and land use law. He has experience in local, state, and federal land use planning and the associated environmental permitting. Will has negotiated environmental matters at the federal, state, and local governmental level. He represents clients before local government commissions, councils, and boards on land use and environmental issues.  Contact Will at 850-208-7020 or wdunaway@clarkpartington.com.

About Clark Partington:

Clark Partington is the largest business focused firm in the Florida panhandle with offices in Pensacola, Destin, Grayton Beach & Tallahassee.  The firm also maintains a presence in South Alabama with an Orange Beach office.  Since 1976 Clark Partington has grown to over forty lawyers and has served the people and businesses of Florida through an innovative and collaborative approach to practicing law.  Our lawyers are consistently recognized for their service to the profession and excellence in the courtroom.  More information about the firm’s practice, its attorneys, and recognitions may be found at www.clarkpartington.com.