You probably know the severe consequences of registering as a sex offender if you’re asking this question. Defendants often don’t even know that pleading guilty to certain offenses triggers registration! That’s because Florida courts have decided that sex offender registration is a “collateral consequence” of a conviction. This means courts and attorneys don’t have to warn you that sex offender registration can happen if plead guilty or are convicted after a trial. The courts just don’t believe registration is punishment. They believe it’s regulation. That conclusion ignores the hard truth, however. Clients have often told me that registration is worse than the actual punishment.
Florida has some of the toughest laws in the nation when it comes to sex offender registration. Registration as a sex offender/sexual predator is required for life. Other states only have a requirement that you register for a specific number of years before they remove you from the their registry. Florida also makes all sex offender information public, regardless of the severity of the crime. Other states only make information public for more serious offenses.
There are options, however, to remove your name removed from Florida sex offender registry:
- Florida’s Romeo and Juliet Law
- Post-Conviction Relief
- After 25 Years
- Full Pardon
- Out-of-State Designation of Sex Offender Removed
Florida’s Romeo and Juliet.
Florida law allows certain youthful offenders to petition or motion the court for removal from sex offender registry. This applies to a person designated as a sex offender or sexual predator. You can request removal from the registry if:
- (1) the victim was 13 to 17 years of age,
- (2) you were no more than 4 years older than the victim,
- (3) the conviction that triggered registration was for Sexual Battery, Lewd and Lascivious Conduct, Sexual Performance by a Child, or Computer Pornography,
- (4) you don’t have any other convictions for the previously listed crimes, and
- (5) the sexual act was consensual and does not conflict with federal law.
It’s important to you realize that you have only one chance as this. And a court’s approval of your petition is far from automatic. The highest rate of successful petitions was 24% in Pasco and Pinellas counties based upon 2011 data. The odds are lower in other counties. You’ll have to wait 25 years after your sentence is complete if unsuccessful. The Romeo and Juliet law does not allow second petitions. It’s in your best interest to hire an attorney experienced in the area of sex crimes.
You can request removal from the Florida sex offender registry if a court overturns the conviction that triggered registration. You can accomplish this through an appeal of your conviction or a motion for post-conviction relief. In one case I worked, I was able to have the conviction triggering registration overturned because my client was not warned that he would have to register as sex offender. While Florida law currently does not require a defendant to be warned of the consequence of sex offender registration when pleading, I was able to successfully argue that the law was wrong and needed to be changed. Rather than litigate the case, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the charges. This case represents a potential significant change in the law that could benefit thousands of sex offenders in Florida.
After 25 Years.
You can also petition to have your name removed from the sex offender registry 25 years after your entire sentence is complete. The entire sentence includes more than just time behind bars. It also means any probation of parole after. There are few big exceptions to the ability to make this petition, though. (1) Law enfocement can’t have arrested you for any felony or misdemeanor since your release. (2) Removal is only for sex offenders. Florida law does not allow anyone labelled as a sexual predator to remove that designation. (3) The offense that triggered registration isn’t for certain serious offenses, such as: sexual battery (rape), false imprisonment, or kidnapping.
A pardon entitles you to removal from the sex offender registry. But obtaining a pardon is a tall order. And here’s why: Florida has a serious backlog (several years) when it comes to processing applications for pardon. Even if you make it to a hearing for pardon, the odds of success are low. Of course, a well trained lawyer fighting on your behalf can change those odds.
Out-of-State Designation as Sex Offender Removed.
The last option to have the FDLE remove your name from Florida’s sex offender registry is a bit tricky to understand. Let break it down.
- First, if you were required to register as a sex offender out-of-state, and then come to Florida (for as little as even 3 days), Florida also requires you to register as sex offender in Florida. It doesn’t matter whether the offense that triggered registration in a different state would also have triggered registration in Florida had the offense been committed in Florida.
- Second, you also have an independent requirement to register as a sex offender in Florida if the out-of-state offense is of a certain type of crime that would trigger registration in Florida had the offense been committed in Florida. This independent requirement could lead to the strange result that an offense committed out-of-state does not trigger registration in that different state, but that out-of-state offense does trigger registration in Florida if you come to Florida. Got it so far?
If only the first requirement to register for out-of-state offenses applies to your case (and not the second), you can request the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to review your file and remove your name from the sex offender registry. You have to prove to the FDLE that your requirement to register out-of-state no longer applies. They won’t investigate the facts for you.
Reviewing Your Options for Removal
As you can see, there are no easy options for removal from the sex offender registry. Everyone requires you to take significant action, and there are many limitations. None happen automatically after a certain length of time or upon a certain event. It’s highly advisable to hire a lawyer to assist you with your efforts due to the complex nature of actions for removal and the stakes involved.
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts and experience when it comes to removal from the sex offender registry. Also, feel free to ask questions you may have in the comments section, and I’ll answer as best as I can.