Beginning in October of 2021, Florida’s legislature will make some changes to Florida’s sex offender registration laws. While the main focus of the Amendment is to close a loophole to avoid registration, there are other changes that will impact registered offenders. We review those changes below:
- Closing the Loophole: In a clever bit of lawyering, a person who the FDLE demanded register as a sexual offender found a loophole to avoid that requirement. Florida’s current sex offender registration law requires a person convicted of a “qualifying offense” to register upon release from court-imposed “sanctions.” A Florida appellate court decided that sanctions include court-imposed fines. As a result, the court ruled that a person could avoid registration by not paying those fines. Since a person otherwise required to register had not been released from their sanctions if they don’t pay their fines, they could not be forced to register.
The Florida legislature, not happy with this outcome, decided to do something about. It passed an Amendment to Florida’s sex offender registration law that excludes “fines” from the definitions of “sanction.” In effect, this closes the loophole to avoid registration simply by not paying fines. Further, if no sanction is imposed by the court (jail, prison, probation, community control, etc.), the Amendment directs a person is released when convicted.
- Updates the Definitions of “Permanent Residence,” “Temporary Residence,” and “Transient Residence”: to clarify how days are calculated for purposes of any change of residence status. The prior lack of clarity has caused numerous registered offenders to get caught up in criminal charges of Failure to Register as a Sexual Offender. Failure to Register is a third-degree felony where prosecutors are often looking for prison time. Making the law clearer will provide help to registered offenders to avoid getting caught on a technicality and face the prospect of a prison sentence despite no intent to avoid registration. We have represented many people who’ve run into this same issue of how to calculate days. The Amendment now excludes the first day, and only counts the following days and includes any part of the day the person stays there.
- Changes to Vehicle Information: Florida’s current registration law requires an offender to report any change in their motor vehicle information by reporting in person within 48 hours to their local sheriff’s. The Amendment allows offenders to report this same information online via the FDLE’s online system. A minor change, but something that can make it easier for a registered offender to comply with their registration requirements and avoid the dreaded Failure to Register criminal charge.
- Reporting when Driver License of State ID is Renewed and Reporting Change or Residence in Name: Another reporting requirement that often trips up registered offenders is also getting a change. An offender is required to report certain information to the DMV within 48 hours of change in their residence, name, or when its time for renewal. The Amendment provides an alternative method of reporting that information.
- Clarifies Reporting Requirements when Moving Out of Florida: The Amendment provides more detail on how to report movement outside of the state of Florida. This applies to both temporary and permanent relocation. Previously, it was only for permanent relocation. It’s a second-degree felony (punishable by up to 15 years in prison) to report that you’re relocating out of Florida permanently, but instead remain in Florida.
- Persons can Petition from Florida Registry if Based Solely Upon Conviction from Another State and Registration in that State is Confidential: Concerned that Florida’s entire sex offender registration law could be placed in legal jeopardy, the Amendment creates a very small loophole for offenders currently required to registered in Florida based upon an out-of-state conviction. Currently, there are two ways Florida can require a person to register for an out-of-state conviction. First, the out-of-state conviction similar to a Florida crime that triggers registration in Florida. Second, a person is required to register in the state where they received their conviction. If only the second scenario applies, the Amendment now provides a method for that person to petition a court from the Florida registry if their out-of-state conviction requires only confidential sex offender registration in that state. In Florida, all sex offender registration is public. In many other states, only some offenders must publicly register. So at to no run afoul of Equal Protection claims, Florida created this change.
Although the upcoming Amendment does not make significant changes to Florida’s sex offender registration, it does provide much needed language and definitions to make it easier for offenders to comply with their reporting requirements and avoid Failure to Register criminal charges. Additionally, Florida has thrown a bone to a very small subset of people required to register in Florida and allows them a path off the registry.
If you’re seeking legal help for removal from Florida’s sex offender registry, don’t hesitate to give Feller Law, P.A., a call to review your options.