Starting in 2021, Florida has raised the stakes if you’re accused of committing a sex offense. A sex offense is one of the most serious crimes a person can be accused of, and Florida is adding onto their draconian system for those convicted. Beyond the lifetime sex offender registration and lengthy prison sentences that loom, Florida is also throwing the book at anyone who is on probation or community control for sex offenses.
Convictions for sex offenses impose a laundry list of harsh consequences even for those granted probation or community control instead of incarceration. These conditions include:
- A mandatory curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- If the victim was under the age of 18, a prohibition on living within 1,000 feet of a school, child care facility, park, playground, or other place where children regularly congregate, as prescribed by the court.
- Active participation in and successful completion of a sex offender treatment program with qualified practitioners specifically trained to treat sex offenders, at the probationer’s or community controllee’s own expense.
- A prohibition on any contact with the victim, directly or indirectly, including through a third person, unless approved by the victim, a qualified practitioner in the sexual offender treatment program, and the sentencing court.
- If the victim was under the age of 18, a prohibition on contact with a child under the age of 18 except as provided by law.
- If the victim was under age 18, a prohibition on working for pay or as a volunteer at any place where children regularly congregate, including, but not limited to, schools, child care facilities, parks, playgrounds, pet stores, libraries, zoos, theme parks, and malls.
- Unless otherwise indicated in the treatment plan provided by a qualified practitioner in the sexual offender treatment program, a prohibition on viewing, accessing, owning, or possessing any obscene, pornographic, or sexually stimulating visual or auditory material, including telephone, electronic media, computer programs, or computer services that are relevant to the offender’s deviant behavior pattern.
- A prohibition on accessing the Internet or other computer services until a qualified practitioner in the offender’s sex offender treatment program, after a risk assessment is completed, approves and implements a safety plan for the offender’s accessing or using the Internet or other computer services.
- A requirement that the probationer or community controllee must submit a specimen of blood or other approved biological specimen to the Department of Law Enforcement to be registered with the DNA data bank.
- A requirement that the probationer or community controllee make restitution to the victim for all necessary medical and related professional services relating to physical, psychiatric, and psychological care.
- Submission to a warrantless search by the community control or probation officer of the probationer’s or community controllee’s person, residence, or vehicle.
- As part of a treatment program, participation at least annually in polygraph examinations to obtain information necessary for risk management and treatment and to reduce the sex offender’s denial mechanisms.
- Maintenance of a driving log and a prohibition against driving a motor vehicle alone without the prior approval of the supervising officer.
- A prohibition against obtaining or using a post office box without the prior approval of the supervising officer.
- If there was sexual contact, a submission to, at the probationer’s or community controllee’s expense, an HIV test with the results to be released to the victim or the victim’s parent or guardian.
- Mandatory Electronic monitoring, or when deemed necessary by the community control or probation officer and his or her supervisor, and ordered by the court at the recommendation of the Department of Corrections.
- A prohibition on visiting schools, child care facilities, parks, and playgrounds, without prior approval from the offender’s supervising officer. The court may also designate additional locations to protect a victim.
- A prohibition on distributing candy or other items to children on Halloween; wearing a Santa Claus costume, or other costume to appeal to children, on or preceding Christmas; wearing an Easter Bunny costume, or other costume to appeal to children, on or preceding Easter; entertaining at children’s parties; or wearing a clown costume; without prior approval from the court.
As these requirements show, even if you’re not incarcerated, all these burdens will make it feel that way. Sex offender probation or community control requires you to be on lockdown for 8 hours a day, restricts where you can live, restricts where you can work, restricts driving, restricts where you can go, requires GPS electronic monitoring, requires expensive treatment, requires permission to use the internet, requires you to pay for medical costs of others, requires submission to lie detector tests, and subjects you to warrantless searches at any time. It even restricts you from wearing costumes! Although some of these conditions can be modified, they are all required. No exceptions.
Defending against allegations of criminal sexual conduct is not for the faint hearted. The mere accusation alone typically conjures up the worst image of an old man lurking in a windowless white van handing out candy. A judge, prosecutor, and jury aren’t going to want to look at the facts and will need to be pushed to do so. This needs to be balanced against being sensitive to usually young accusers and our obligation to protect our youth from genuine abusers.
Normally, if accused of a serious crime, avoiding jail/prison is a good goal. But as a review of Florida laws, even probation or community control can be a crushing result. With your life on the line, it cannot be understated how important it is to hire a lawyer with experience in defending against accusations of sex offenses if Florida.