Weekly Update for 2020-02-19
Dear Members and Advocates,
Persons forced to register in Michigan added another win to their column last week when a Federal District Court Judge ruled that if the Michigan Legislature did not “fix” their unconstitutional registry within 60 days, the state could not enforce its registry against anyone pre-2011 and could not enforce certain provisions of the registry against those post-2011. Some of you reacted with the concern that the legislature will only come back within 60 days and enact something harsher. The answer to that concern is that they can’t!
By “fix” the registry, the Court is telling the legislature to rewrite the Statute to remove all of the elements that make it unconstitutional. Those elements include the vague restriction against working, loitering, or residing in a “student safety zone”, reporting of phone numbers or vehicles “regularly used”. The elements that must be removed are also the reporting of electronic mail or instant message address, or any other designations used in internet communications or postings, which have been found to violate the First Amendment. And potentially most importantly, to be found in violation of the registry will require a showing that the violation was knowing! Currently in Michigan (as is the case in Florida), you can’t argue that you didn’t know about a requirement or nobody told you that you had to….
This Court has given the State the parameters they need to “fix” – a roadmap for a registry that will pass constitutional muster. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals (and even the Supreme Court) endorsed that roadmap. The fact that the Legislature has done nothing to fix it has required the Plaintiffs to come back to court and the Judge to assign a deadline, and “until such time as the legislature acts, SORA will be unenforceable against a large portion of registrants and may be enforced only in part against the remaining registrants.”
Sure, it would have been ideal for the Court to abolish the whole statute and send everyone on their way, but that was never a realistic possibility. Our biggest concern before this order came out, as I had mentioned in a previous update, that registrants in Michigan would be in the same boat a year from now, which now we know they wont and we also know some of the restrictions that they will no longer be subject to. It is a huge win.
Some of you also asked what this means for us here in Florida. Anytime another jurisdiction gets a win, it’s good news. Although it is not binding on us here in Florida, it gives us the ability to go into court on one of our cases and say to a judge, “your Honor, this is what they had in Michigan, these provisions are similar to what we have here in Florida (in fact Florida is harsher in most cases), and here is what their Court had to say about it!”. Unquestionably, this decision will be brought to the Court’s attention in Does 1-5 v. Swearingen, Florida’s “Ex Post Facto Plus” case.
Another item of confirmation we received this past week is a correspondence from the Florida Department of Education that there is nothing in the Florida Statutes that would preclude an individual on the registry (who is not on probation, whose victim is not attending the school, who is not subject to some other court order like a trespass or restraining order) from attending an event at their child’s school, so long as they meet certain requirements, specifically (1) Provide written notification of his or her intent to be present to the school board, superintendent, principal, or child care facility owner; (2) Notify the child care facility owner or the school principal’s office when he or she arrives and departs the child care facility or school; or (3) Remain under direct supervision of a school official or designated chaperone when present in the vicinity of children.
If you have a child in the public school system and you comply with one of the three requirements above, you should be allowed to attend to their parent teacher conferences and other school functions. Note that local school districts (or municipalities) might have their own rules. If your child’s school is preventing you from being involved in their educational process, we suggest you politely remind them of the State statute and the Florida Department of Education position and if that doesn’t alleviate the issue, find out, specifically, under what authority they are acting and let us know. No child should be deprived of a parent!
The Florida Action Committee
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Wed Feb 26 – Free Registrant Peer Support group (no therapist) meets in Pinellas Park area at 5:30 pm.
Thu Feb 20 – Local Meet-and-Greet in Lakeland (Polk County).
Fri Feb 28- Free therapist-led Family Support session (no registrants) meets at 7pm in Tampa.
Sat Mar 7. Free therapist-led Family Support session (no registrants) meets from 11am-1pm in Central Broward.
Seating is limited for all events. For more information, or to RSVP email [email protected] or call 904-452-8322. No children please.
SOME HEADLINES FROM THIS WEEK
Ranchland Heights Baptist Church in Midland, which has been pastored by a man required to register as a sex offender because of a conviction 17 years ago, has been ousted by the Southern Baptist Convention. Four years ago, the Church was questioned by the Houston…
We are not aware of any restrictions in Florida’s sex offender registration statutes related to a registrant’s ability to participate in or be present at school functions or meetings. There is a procedure outlined in section 856.022, Florida Statutes, that applies when a registrant plans to attend an event at a child care facility or school.
Part 1 Volusia County Florida . This is a recollection of my first travel outside of my state (Florida) to Chicago suburbs for a family event. I went to the VCSO in Volusia county and…
A group of convicted sex offenders has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a far-reaching ordinance in Apple Valley that severely restricts where they can live, alleging that the ordinance effectively bars them from living anywhere in the…