Yesterday, an Amended Complaint was filed in Matthew 25 Ministries, Inc. v. Richard L. Swearingen. The lawsuit is a constitutional challenge to the myriad of requirements in the Florida sex offender registration scheme that require persons required to register to travel to a Sheriff’s office or Driver’s License office (or, in some cases, both) to report things such as a business trip or vacation of 3 or more days or a vehicle belonging to a cohabitant or visitor.

Matthew 25 Ministries, which had also been given the name “Miracle Village” or “City of Refuge”, is a colony of more than 100 people required to register as sex offenders who live among corn fields in the middle of nowhere. They live isolated and far away from most of society, because their housing community in Pahokee, Florida is one of the few areas in Palm Beach County where they can lawfully live in compliance with the residency restrictions that would otherwise legislate them into homelessness.

Matthew 25 is suing the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on behalf of themselves and other persons required to register, to block the enforcement of components of the law that require additional “in person” reporting beyond the 2 or 4 times they already must report in person. The complaint does not challenge the reporting of the information. It challenges that it must be made in person and within 48 hours, where there are periods in excess of 48 hours when the office to which they report is closed.

As the complaint illustrates; “if a registrant living at Matthew 25 Ministries needs to travel to New York for a family emergency that occurred on Friday after 3:45 PM, he will be unable to leave until Monday morning at the earliest, because he will otherwise be unable to comply with F.S. 943.0435(7), which requires him to report interstate travel at the Sheriff’s office, in person, within 48 hours.”

The very same information that in many cases can’t possibly me made in person, can be provided to the State through an online notification (similar to the one they have for the reporting of Internet Identifiers and other changes), by telephone, by email or through similar methods that would not require a person to chose between rushing to the hospital when a family member is in an accident or being charged with a crime.

Currently, the law makes no exceptions for emergencies or natural disasters and violations are a third degree felony carrying a minimum mandatory sentence with mandatory GPS monitoring.

A copy of the amended complaint can be found here: M25 v. Swearingen – Amended Complaint (filed)

 

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