Learn more about the burial laws in the state of Florida.
Cemeteries are the link to the past. In many states, including Florida, unmarked cemeteries are located on private property. Some cemeteries are known while others are discovered during construction projects. Florida state law determines what can be done with these discovered cemeteries and who has the authority to request the remains be moved for any reason.
Abandoned cemeteries are located throughout the state of Florida. These cemeteries are often included in sales of private land. Abandoned cemeteries are deemed abandoned when routine maintenance has not been present for more than six months. State laws authorize counties and municipalities to take over the maintenance of an abandoned cemetery at this point. If there is no interest in the owner to continue maintenance, the county has the ability to sue the property owner for the costs of maintaining the cemetery. Private property owners can also request the human remains be moved from the property, but this requires permission from the families of the deceased.
Under Florida law (Chapter 497.384), only those who hold a funeral director’s license and have a valid burial transit permit are allowed to have buried human remains moved to another location. A request to move remains can be made due to the abandonment of a cemetery, public works projects or at the request of family members of the deceased. Any time a body is moved, permission from the family must be granted.
If a person discovers an unmarked burial in Florida, they must immediately file a report with local law enforcement under Florida state law 872.05. Florida is home to many generations of Americans, European explorers and Native Americans. In order to determine when the person was buried, why and whether the area is a known burial ground, the medical examiner and archeologists will be called. If you do not report the discovery of unmarked remains, you can be charged with a second degree misdemeanor.
Chapter 872.02 of Florida state laws concludes that is is illegal to disturb human remains. It is also illegal to knowingly disturb any markers, tombstones and vegetation that may be associated with a specific burial site. Any private property owner with a burial site or tribal representative for specific burial site is not exempt from this rule.
It is also illegal in Florida to buy and sell human remains. In many cases, this also includes artifacts that may be located near the burial site.
Access to Cemeteries
People who have discovered that their ancestors graves are now part of private property should still have access to these burial grounds. Many property owners may not realize that they have graves or a family cemetery on their land. The law allows for these family members to enter the cemetery during specific times as set by the property owner. The family also has the right to maintain the cemetery if the property owner refuses to do so.