Dear Members and Advocates:
This week’s update is coming to you a bit early because the trial in the Miami-Dade Sex Offender Residency Restriction (SORR) challenge wrapped up on Friday. In all, the trial lasted approximately 20 hours over the course of 4 days. The team of ACLU and Legal Services of Greater Miami attorneys who represented us at trial did a great job and we are very happy with and appreciative of their representation. The attorneys called several expert witnesses and one hostile witness; Ron Book, to testify. They also called on the John Doe plaintiffs who are living homeless as a consequence of the SORR in Miami-Dade.
Both sides have 10 days (from the time trial wrapped up on Friday) to make final submissions to the court, after which the Judge will take the case under advisement and we will wait for an order to come down. That may take days, weeks or months (remember, we just waited 10 months in the Internet Identifier challenge), though this Judge is known to render decisions relatively quickly. It is impossible to speculate how things went and while the decision has not been made, we are reluctant to make any comments. The reality is, whichever side loses will almost certainly appeal, so there is still a long road ahead of us, but for now, we’ve had our day in court and it’s now a waiting game.
The waiting game won’t feel longer than for our brothers and sisters that are living homeless in Miami-Dade and across the State of Florida. Homeless not by choice, but by laws that leave them with no option but to live that way, even when many have families with whom they could live. 444 people required to register, out of a total of 1,747 registrants in Miami-Dade County are homeless. That’s more than a quarter of them and it represents a two-hundred eighty percent (280%) increase in the percentage of homeless registrants over the past 5 years! That’s tragic.
Another reason this week’s update is coming to you early is because it’s the week of Halloween. Halloween is the one time of the year when people required to register are most vulnerable. It’s the time when the media runs their sex offender scare stories and tell parents to “check the registry” before trick or treating. Come on! There is ZERO increase in reported sexual offenses on Halloween and these urban legends of sex offenders on Halloween have become the biggest “trick” in “trick or treat”. Children ages 5 to 14 are four times more likely to be killed by a pedestrian/motor-vehicle accident on Halloween than on any other day of the year, but the media doesn’t seem to give that statistic any coverage.
What all this hysteria does do is make targets out of registrants (and their families) who experience more instances of vandalism and violence during this time. So be vigilant!
Many of our members have asked what the law says about their participation in Halloween. Florida Statutes only cover registrants ON PROBATION. That restriction can be found in F.S. 948.30, which provides 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.” Again, this STATE LAW applies ONLY to those on probation!
That said, some County or City ordinances have their own restriction. For example, Duval (Jacksonville) has an overly harsh law. Section 685.104 of their ordinance prohibits anyone on the registry, regardless of whether they are on probation, from (i) having contact with children on Halloween, (ii) from 6AM to 11:59PM post a sign at their house that says, “No candy or treats here”, (iii) turn off any exterior lighting (except for safety lights that are on year round), and (iv) not display any seasonal decorations. That stupid sign might as well be a huge target on the front door because by now everyone knows what that means.
Whether or not you are on Probation, it is very important to know what your municipal ordinances at both the county and city level require. You can do this by searching online for the ordinance (many can be found at Municode – https://library.municode.com/FL) or by calling your local police department and asking whether your municipality has a Halloween ordinance and if so, what that ordinance number is so that you can research it. It is important to get the ordinance number because some might tell you there’s a law, but none actually exists. Case in point; a member in Broward County received a visit from law enforcement in his area, who gave him a sign to post on Halloween. There is no ordinance in the County or his City requiring he post a sign, and he correctly tossed the sign in the trash.
Know your rights!
Finally, we have added a thermometer graph for our “Ex Post Facto – Sustainer” fundraising drive. This drive is exclusively to cover our costs and fees in litigating the Ex Post Facto challenge through trial. It’s not going to attorneys fees (who will recover their fees from the state if/when we prevail) and not a penny goes to FAC. This fund goes to cover items such as deposition transcripts and experts, which we will need. Please do your part and help us meet our goal.
The Florida Action Committee
SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK (AND ONE FROM 4 YEARS AGO, BUT IT’S STILL TIMELY)
It is almost Halloween, and as we begin to feel a chill in the air in the northern hemisphere, we also feel the excitement of that annual ritual of trick or treating. But while children look forward to a night of ghouls, ghosts, goblins and goodies, parents ponder the…
From SCOTUSBlog: In United States v. Haymond, the justices will weigh in on a challenge to the constitutionality of a federal law that requires additional prison time for sex offenders who violate the terms of their supervised release. The defendant in the case is…
Vasquez v. Foxx, the 7th Circuit case on sex offender residency restrictions that has been appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States (see here for more info:https://floridaactioncommittee.org/7th-circuit-sex-offender-case-appealed-to-scotus/ ) has some new…
For those who are forced to have no Halloween plans, here’s an event you are specifically invited to attend. For the second year, the National Association for Rational Sex Offense Laws (NARSOL) will be conducting a marathon call. The information follows: Halloween…