Dear Members and Advocates:
When something is vague, it’s imprecise. It has no clear definition or meaning. It can be understood by different people in different ways. Criminal laws are required to state explicitly and definitely what conduct is punishable. Otherwise, the laws are said to be “void for vagueness” under the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. It is well settled that probation may not be revoked based on a violation of a condition that is ambiguous or vague, because conditions imposed as part of one’s sentence which are ambiguous will affect the state’s ability at a later date to establish a willful violation of that condition. So why doesn’t the same apply to registration violations?
While registration violations are third degree felonies in Florida carrying a minimum mandatory sentence, registration laws are not “criminal laws”. The registry is said to be “civil and non-punitive”, but with such harsh “civil” penalties, it hardly feels like that. While violations of probation must be knowing and willful, registration violations are strict liability. You can be arrested and convicted for doing something without even knowing you are doing anything wrong. And while conditions imposed as part of one’s sentence must be set forth with specificity at the time of sentencing so that the state and the individual knows what conditions are being imposed on them, registration laws can change often and at any time without any notice to the individual subject to them.
These days I find myself wishing for some unusual things. I find myself asking for punishment because if the stated purpose of the registry aligned with its effect, we would be protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Punishment cannot be applied retroactively, punishment cannot be ambiguous or vague, and punishment cannot be cruel and unusual. I also find myself wishing I were on probation. Because if I were on probation, unknowing and unintentional missteps that are not crimes for anybody not on the registry, would have to be committed willfully and knowingly in order to warrant conviction. In fact, the registry is worse than punishment and complying with registration obligations is worse than being on probation. It’s worse because we are not afforded the same protections.
The Florida Registration Statute is hopelessly vague. It contains terms that are subject to differing interpretations and have been interpreted differently by those enforcing it. When, as we saw in the depositions from the Ex Post Facto Plus Challenge, even different people within the FDLE had differing understanding of the term “day” meant, we got no clearer example of how dangerous our registration statute is. Along with it being hopelessly vague, it’s unmercifully harsh. During the past year we have seen law enforcement go to great lengths to arrest registrants for petty violations based on vague facts. Was a long weekend (Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon trip) three “days” (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), was it two days (48 hours between Friday and Sunday) or was it one day and two partial days? The difference in definition is the difference between an innocent family trip and five years in prison. And worse, the definition is up to subjective interpretation of the arresting officer.
The Florida Registry is a very frustrating landscape to traverse and with so many regulatory landmines paving our paths, sometimes moving forward is a scary proposition. As we begin a new year, it is our mission to help our registrant members navigate their paths forward. Our forum, monthly member calls, weekly updates and regional meet and greets are intended to exchange information on all things registration and to support and encourage all of us to move ahead. From new laws, to new court decisions, to new enforcement actions, we help each other remain informed. Our mission is also to provide emotional support to our members who are family and friends of registrants through support groups and community. And perhaps our most important mission is to fight! Whether correcting public perception through education, pushing back against media misinformation or initiating and sustaining legal challenges to the registry, our ultimate mission, which should be neither vague nor ambiguous, is to abolish the registry!
In the coming days you will receive a letter in the mail containing the annual donation drive for 2021. Please don’t ignore this letter. As a not-for-profit organization and donations are the only means to support our work. We encourage members to pledge whatever you can afford, even $5/month. Every penny collected goes towards that work because nobody at FAC receives a penny of compensation. Thank you for supporting our mission!
The Florida Action Committee
Need to Talk? FAC has peer volunteers that are here to talk one-on-one, call 904-452-8322. Volunteers are not available 24/7 but you will receive a call as soon as possible. If you have an emergency, call 911, or helpline at 1-800-273-8255 or a crisis center (Listing of Crisis Centers and Hotlines)
Two County Coordinator Training programs begin next month. Sign up for a class to receive your training package. Class A meets by phone on Sundays or Class B meets by phone on Wednesdays. Looking for members who want to be part of the Membership team for their local area. It requires 2-4 hours/week, self-motivation and a one-year commitment. No limit, you can have multiple coordinators in one County if you have a friend or family member that wants to help. We will provide the training, support, and materials that you need to succeed. If interested, contact membership at 833-273-7325 Option 1 or email [email protected] for more information.
SOME HEADLINES FROM THIS WEEK
A member in Duval shared the below. Please remember, if you receive a call from someone claiming to be in law enforcement it’s likely a scam. The latest twist is they are asking for the person’s Social Security number. With a name, address, date of birth and now…
You are required, under both Florida and federal law (International Megan’s Law) to report international travel 21 DAYS IN ADVANCE. XXXXXXX,45, of Perry failed to report he was on the cruise ship “Carnival Paradise” on December 12, 2019, for a four-day cruise to…
Let’s preface this post by saying we strongly condemn the actions this pediatrician is accused of. We hope Senator Book’s children, and all the former patients of this doctor, are safe and were not harmed. A popular South Florida pediatrician was arrested and charged…
Members have been writing in letting us know that officers are asking interrogating questions during the address verification, including information that is not even registrable (see below). Remember to only identify yourself by showing your ID and that’s all. You do…
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