Dear Members and Advocates,
For this week’s update we’re going to take a trip back in time. We make this trip because the Supreme Court of the State of South Carolina found that their registry, which requires registration for life without any judicial review, is unconstitutional. A huge win for the people in South Carolina but a beautiful decision for registrants nationwide because of the opinion of South Carolina’s highest court, which included a trip back in time to 1994, when that state enacted its registry.
What the court did was look back at the purpose of South Carolina’s sex offender registration provisions, which was to “promote the state’s fundamental right to provide for the public health, welfare, and safety of its citizens.” While that reasoning might loosely fly for adding someone to the registry initially, does that still apply for the life of the person? What if the person completed treatment and has been offense-free for decades? How about when they become old or disabled? The SC Supreme Court said, no. The “lifetime registration requirement without any opportunity for judicial review to assess the risk of re-offending is arbitrary and cannot be deemed rationally related to the legislature’s stated purpose of protecting the public from those with a high risk of re-offending” they found.
Which leads to our trip back in time. Let’s go back to 1997 when the Florida Legislature enacted this state’s registry and examine the legislative history (Chapter 97-299, Senate Bill No. 958). Interestingly, this Act was called the “Public Safety Information Act” which would seem to imply that the intent of the registry is to promote public safety. That belief is further reinforced by the first “whereas clause” which states, “WHEREAS, the Legislature and law enforcement agencies recognize that the release of criminal history information or other information regarding criminal offenders is essential to the public’s safety and welfare.” The legislative history also regurgitates the tired myth that, persons who have committed a sexually-based offense “pose a high risk of engaging in sexual offenses even after being released from incarceration or commitment.” We now know that to be untrue.
The same concerns the SC Supreme Court had with their registry exist in Florida’s. You have these arbitrary and universally applied rules and restrictions that are imposed on people without any individualized assessment of the risk they pose to the citizens of Florida. It’s kind of like pitting Michael Jordan against Michael J. Fox in a game of one-on-one and thinking it’s an even match. The SC court found that practice “is arbitrary and cannot be deemed rationally related to the legislature’s stated purpose of protecting the public from those with a high risk of re-offending.”
The Court also pointed out that “the lifetime inclusion of individuals who have a low risk of re-offending renders the registry over-inclusive and dilutes its utility by creating an ever-growing list of registrants that is less effective at protecting the public and meeting the needs of law enforcement.” Here in Florida, we keep people who merely visited here years ago on our registry for life. More than half the people on Florida’s registry are not even in Florida!!! How can the state justify these people present a high risk to Florida’s public safety when they are no longer even in the state? Heck, we keep people on after they die! I’d love to see the legislature cite one single case where a deceased person reoffended or provide any explanation why keeping them on the list is “essential to the public’s safety and welfare”. Yet somehow people who left the state, were deported or died remain on the list.
Just like we can’t say Michael Jordan and Michael J. Fox were ever an even match in basketball during their prime, can we say that Michael Jordan’s level of performance is the same today as he approaches 60, as it was when he was in his 20’s? Or that Michael J. Fox’s dexterity is the same now as before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease? Similarly, it’s completely disingenuous to say that all persons required to register as a sex offender “pose a high risk of re-offending”, because they didn’t all start off as “high risk” to begin with. Even assuming, for argument sake, that they did all start off that way, you can’t say that they present the same level of risk as they get older, are stricken with a degenerative disease or are no longer physically present in the community. To argue so would be irrational and therefore “cannot be deemed rationally related to the legislature’s stated purpose of protecting the public from those with a high risk of re-offending.”
For clarification to those who may be wondering, the South Carolina Supreme Court decision has no binding impact on registrants here in Florida. That said, other state’s decisions can be persuasive. Especially when there are so many analogous facts and especially when it’s a unanimous decision. The more states that align on our side of the fence, the better for our cause. Also, I cannot tell you how refreshing and validating it is to read an opinion where the court gets it!
We have our own important case going on here in Florida (the Ex Post Facto Plus I and II) and for all those who responded to last week’s call for donations to keep those cases afloat, we sincerely appreciate your much needed help. For those who have not, please consider making a donation to help sustain this case. South Carolina reminds us that good things can happen!
Florida Action Committee
Housing is Needed – We receive calls daily from members looking for housing. If you have housing to rent or purchase, please contact email [email protected] or call 833-273-7325, option 1. We will only share the information with the FAC Outreach team and the County Coordinator in your area.
Research Studies – Voluntary Participation. 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.
June 12 Saturday – 11:00am-1:00pm ET. Therapist-led Family Support Session via Zoom. Limited participation. Email [email protected] or leave message at 833-273-7325 Option 1 for access to the Monthly group session.
June 26 Saturday 1:00-3:00pm Apopka (Orange)- Local FAC Meeting. For location, text “RSVP Apopka” with your name and number of attendees to 904-452-8322 or email [email protected]
June 26 Saturday 3:00pm-5:00pm Tampa (Hillsborough) Meet and Greet. For location, text “RSVP Tampa” with your name and number of attendees to (813) 922-8717 or email [email protected]
July 17 Saturday (NEW DATE) 1:00pm-4:00pm Titusville (Brevard) Meet and Greet. For location, text “RSVP Brevard” with your name and number of attendees to 904-452-8322 or email [email protected]
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)
SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK
Well this isn’t good… How about the other 99% of the times someone needs to show their drivers licenses, like when cashing a check or using a credit…
A Palm Coast man drove to the Kim C. Hammond Justice Center in Bunnell on Tuesday morning to be sentenced to 3½ years in prison on 10 counts of possession of child pornography. But instead of walking into the courthouse, XXXXXX XXXXXX, 47, remained in his truck and…
South Carolina Supreme Court rules that lifetime placement on the sex offender registry is unconstitutional
The S.C. Supreme Court has ruled the state’s lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender is unconstitutional and those who demonstrate a low risk of re offending may have their names purged with a judge’s permission. You can read the Court’s opinion here:…
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