Florida Sex Offender Restrictions: Are They Too Harsh?

Florida places some of the harshest restrictions on sex offenders in the United States. Depending on the nature of the crime and the jurisdiction, these restrictions will dictate how often an offender needs to register, where they can live, where they can work, and more.

Many municipalities in Florida enforce enhanced restrictions, far harsher than what is set forth by state law. In Miami-Dade County, for example, sex offenders are prohibited from living within 2,500 feet of any school, daycare facility, playground, or park. State law dictates a 1,000-foot distance.

In 2014, 7 homeless people sued Miami-Dade County for enacting an ordinance that has forced hundreds of sex offenders into homelessness. In their lawsuit against Miami-Dade County, the plaintiffs claimed that nearly 99% of affordable and available rentals are unavailable to registered sex offenders due to their proximity to parks, schools, and other prohibited areas. Areas outside the 2,500-foot limit are agricultural or industrial areas that offer little to no affordable housing.

A district court judge upheld the ordinance in 2018, saying its “residency restriction is rationally connected to the non-punitive purpose of protecting children from sex offenders.” The plaintiffs filed an appeal.

Rules for Sex Offenders in Florida

Some are calling for Florida municipalities to ease up on sex offender restrictions that are unfairly penalizing low-level offenders, while others want more to be done to prevent offenders from committing the same or worse crimes.

The following are some of the restrictions that apply to sex offenders in Florida:

  • Within 48 hours of their release from incarceration, a sex offender must register, in person, with their local sheriff’s department.
  • A sex offender must provide a considerable amount of information when registering. This includes their name, age, social security number, date of birth, a recent photograph, fingerprints, home address, work address, place of employment, a description of the crime committed, and more.
  • A sex offender may not live within 1,000 feet of any park, playground, school, or daycare in Florida.
  • A sex offender may not work at any business where children are regularly present. This may include schools, daycare facilities, playgrounds, indoor and outdoor play areas, and more.

It is important to note that these are the state laws applying to registered sex offenders in Florida. As mentioned above, individual municipalities may implement their own ordinances regarding sex offender restrictions. It’s estimated that 160 municipalities in Florida impose enhanced sex offender restrictions, harsher than what state law dictates.

Violating sex offender restrictions is a third-degree felony, which is punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

For more information on Florida sex offender rules and requirements, check out the following blogs:

Sex Offender Restrictions Extend Penalties After a Sentence Is Served

For sex offenders, their penalties do not end when they are released from jail, pay their fines, and finish other requirements of their court-imposed sentences. They suffer the consequences of sex offender registration for the rest of their lives, and if they live in areas where restrictions are harshest, they may find trouble finding a place to live and work.

Talk to a Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

The nature of sex crime allegations and the penalties a conviction will bring, along with severe sex offender restrictions that will remain in place long after a sentence has been served, make it essential to ensure the full protection of your rights and interests. At Thomas & Paulk, we have represented thousands of clients across Florida in the face of all types of criminal charges. We know how to handle sex offense allegations, investigations, arrests, and trials.

Our Tampa criminal defense lawyers understand what prosecuting attorneys and law enforcement officers will try to do to put you behind bars – and we know how to counteract these strategies. We are also experienced with defending clients against alleged violations of sex offender restrictions. If you want to learn more about what can be done to protect your future, call (813) 221-4200 today. Your initial consultation is free and confidential.

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