Dear Members and Advocates,

Today, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in a case having nothing to do with the sex offender registry, but that might have an impact on registrants and their families. The case is Caniglia v. Strom and it deals with warrantless searches of one’s home.

Here’s what happened in Caniglia: One day Mr. and Mrs. Caniglia got into a heated argument. Exasperated, Mr. Caniglia took out one of his unloaded handguns and put it on the table in front of his wife saying something to the effect of “why don’t you go ahead and shoot me to put me out of this misery”. Mrs. Caniglia wound up packing a bag and leaving to a hotel for the evening. The next morning, after cooling off, Mrs. Caniglia tried to call her husband but he wasn’t taking her calls. Worried, she called the police. When the police arrived, Mr. Caniglia had also cooled down. He was calm and collected when he answered the door and explained that he was just frustrated by the argument the night before and nothing more. Nevertheless, the police had him taken in for a psychiatric evaluation, which he passed and wasn’t even held. The other thing the police did was enter the Caniglia’s home without a warrant, search for and confiscate their two handguns.

The Fourth Amendment protects us from warrantless searches of our homes. This protection is so sacred that it even covers the curtilage (area surrounding our homes). It’s mind blowing to read some of the press releases about these “multi-agency sex offender compliance operations” that net so many arrests for petty and unknowing violations resulting from simple address verifications. Florida and federal statutes do permit local law enforcement to “verify the addresses” of registrants, but verifying an address is very different from interrogating an individual about registration information, walking around the back of one’s house, looking into windows, insisting to come inside or some of the other tactics we’ve heard about over the years. For someone no longer on probation, those are a big constitutional no-no’s and we should be mindful of our rights under the Fourth Amendment (I’ll conclude with that in a few paragraphs).

So, getting back to the Caniglias and why we care about their case… In order to do a warrantless search, police need to have some valid grounds. They can do a search incident to a lawful arrest or if there’s probable cause based on some imminent emergency, danger or threat. There’s also an exemption called the “community caretaking doctrine” which usually applies to vehicles. The government, in this case, wants to apply the community caretaking doctrine to a home, arguing that officers are entitled to enter a residence without a warrant if the circumstances are dire and the officers’ actions are both limited and  based  on sound police procedure. Essentially, it balances individual liberties against community safety and here the government argues that they conducted the warrantless search and seizure to protect the Caniglias and others. The Caniglias argue that doesn’t apply in their case.

Switching back to our scenario, I would understand the walking around backyards or peering through windows if police had probable cause to believe someone had abducted a child. But does an address verification create the type of exigent circumstance that justifies the conduct that has been taking place in these “multi-agency operations”? One would think the two scenarios (rescuing a kidnapped kid vs. doing an address verification) would be on opposite ends of the spectrum with a clearly defined line somewhere in the middle of what would and what would not be reasonable. Apparently not so.

If you believe there exists a clearly defined line to cross before violating a constitutional right, think about all of the circumstances where our rights are trampled upon under the guise of “protecting the community”.  The publication of our pictures and biographical information on registries violates our right to privacy, residency restrictions and proximity ordinances violate our freedom of association, travel restrictions imposed by reporting requirements and IML notices impede our freedom of movement, SB932 violates our right to parent, and civil commitment violates pretty much all of the above. All under the guise of being ‘in the interest of public safety and protecting the community’.

The government can’t be left to draw their own line of reasonableness, they will simply argue that everything done to us is required under the excuse of protecting the public. Based on today’s oral arguments, I’d bet the Supreme Court isn’t going to step in and draw that line either. So that leaves it up to us to make sure our lines are clearly drawn. You can start by re-reading this post from one year ago: https://floridaactioncommittee.org/you-only-need-to-show-your-id/ and putting it into practice.

Sincerely,

The Florida Action Committee


Reminders:

New Research Studies – Voluntary Participation.

  1. Dr Jill Levenson is conducting an anonymous survey about Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) for people required to register and their family members. For more information about the study and how to access the survey, click here.
  2. Shelley Kavanagh (Doctorial Candidate) is conducting one-on-one phone interviews with mothers of registered citizens living in Florida.  For more information about the study and how to schedule an interview, click here.

Want to be a County Coordinator for FAC?  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.

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)


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