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Proposed Bill Threatens to Throw Florida's Sexual Offender Registration Scheme into Chaos

  • 26 Jan 2024 9:14 AM
    Message # 13306289
    John (Administrator)

    BOYNTON BEACH, Fla., Jan. 25, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- As the State of Florida defends its sexual offender registration system in two federal court cases challenging the law as unconstitutional, a proposed bill winding its way through the 2024 legislative session could throw Florida's sexual offender registration scheme into chaos, according to the Florida Action Committee (FAC), a nonprofit organization that advocates for rational, evidence-based legislation to enhance public safety.

    While state officials have testified under oath that police and prosecutors make every effort to avoid charging persons required to register as sexual offenders with technical registration violations, a bill introduced by Sen. Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island) puts that assertion in doubt. Bradley's proposed bill would, among other changes to Florida law, define a day as "any part of a day" for determining the places of residence of the state's registered sexual offenders. The bill would also require separate criminal charges for even minor errors made by registrants during their registration check-ins and add confusing new requirements concerning how those who have gone over 25 years without an arrest seek removal from Florida's sex offender registry in court.

    SB 1230 and its House companion bill HB 1235, introduced by Rep. Jessica Baker (R-Jacksonville), would revise multiple sections of Florida's Sexual Offender Registration Act. Additional restrictions imposed by the bill would require registrants to report foreign travel of any duration at least 21 days in advance and force registrants to report all travel at least 48 hours before leaving, even when making trips of only a few days. Failure to comply with these provisions would constitute a separate third-degree felony, each carrying a potential five-year prison sentence.

    According FAC President Gail Colletta, the proposed bills would make Florida's sex offender registration law impossible to comply with. "Because an hour, a minute, or even a second are technically 'any part of a day,' citizens who are required to register will have no way of knowing when they will be required to report their movements to law enforcement. This is just one of the many problems with the bill," Colletta noted.

    Colletta explained that the portion of the bill that would make each instance of failing to report information (such as a new email address or telephone number), or making an error when reporting a date or address, a separate third-degree felony exposes the true punitive intent of Florida's sex offender registration regime. "On the one hand, state officials have testified in federal court that the intent of the law is not to punish former offenders but to provide a civil regulatory system. Yet at the same time, the state wants to be able to pile on separate five-year prison terms for each minor technical violation, even if they are made during the same registration session. That sounds like punishment, not civil regulation," Colletta said. Colletta has urged state legislators to reject the new proposed restrictions and instead focus on legislation that would address the root causes of sexual abuse.

    Media Contact:
    Gail Colletta


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