Dear Members and Advocates,
Everything bad is good for something. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the validity of this old proverb, but it’s true. As we continue to fight what appears to be an unsuccessful battle convincing the Governor to suspend in person registration during this pandemic, we are beginning to envision a positive outcome from this inhumane situation. It’s going to be pretty difficult to argue that the registration laws in Florida are not punitive.
If even during a period of emergency, a worldwide pandemic or a natural disaster the state will require free human beings to risk their health by defying stay-at-home orders, be separated from their families and check in to a jail to shelter from a hurricane, or continue to sleep on the streets even when schools and parks are closed, how can this not be considered punishment?
Something very good came from the arrest of William Wright in 2018. His arrest led to Nassau county’s residency restriction being declared unconstitutional. Last week, in what we are hoping to be another landmark case, the Nassau County sex offender residency restriction was found to violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on ex post facto punishment! If you recall, a similar thing happened in the City of Ft. Lauderdale a couple years ago and now a County! Congratulations to Mr. Wright and his attorneys. From something bad (his arrest in 2018), came something very good.
Another very good thing happened in the 2nd District Court of Appeals. On April 15th, Ray James won an appeal from the Trial Court. The appellate court agreeing that his failure to register was properly dismissed because he does “not qualify as a “sexual offender” because his sanction, which includes a $10,000 fine, has not been released.” You see, the registration statute requires that in order to trigger the requirement to register, one must have been “released on or after October 1, 1997, from the sanction imposed for any conviction…”.
For anyone not released from sanction (ex: a fine, probation, community control, parole, conditional release, control release, or incarceration in a state prison, federal prison, private correctional facility, or local detention facility), what this case states is that the obligation to register does not kick in. Yes, this is huge! From something bad (James’ arrest) came this great decision that might positively impact the lives of thousands.
We will continue to monitor the status of both cases to see whether they will be further appealed or whether legislators will try to pass new laws to circumvent these Court’s decisions.
Continuing with the theme of “from something bad, comes something good”, we hope the pandemic will yield something positive. Maybe time spend sheltering at home will bring you closer to family? Maybe businesses will implement long-term procedures that will keep us healthier year round? Maybe the extra time on our hands can be put into our advocacy work? Looking forward to more good news to come!
The Florida Action Committee
SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK
An excellent decision came out of Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit (Nassau County) Friday afternoon finding their Sex Offender Residency Restriction (SORR) Unconstitutional as applied to the Defendant (who was charged with violating the County SORR) whose offense…
On the day the Florida Legislature voted on the budget, Florida had 390 positive cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths statewide. Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa, a leader on prison issues, made a point before the vote to ask what was being done to address a potential outbreak…
When former Florida Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011, he pushed to privatize health care for Florida prisoners. He promised the move would save taxpayers millions of dollars and it did, at least until 2014. An audit ordered by the state legislature found that since…
An excellent case came out of Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeals last week! An individual who had been charged with a Failure to Register (FTR) had his charges thrown out by the Trial Court (and the Appeals court now agreed) because the statutory language of…
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