Why Does Florida Have Harsh Sex Crimes Penalties?

2014 saw Florida taking steps to toughen the laws for sex offenders, becoming one of the harshest states with respect to sex crime penalties.

Florida’s Civil Commitment Law

Florida uses an involuntary civil commitment law as a method for extending the period of incarceration on some sex offenders beyond the length of the prison sentence imposed in a criminal case. In other words, involuntary commitment of violent criminals to a mental health facility. The idea had originally emerged in the 1960s when it was proposed for the purpose of committing “sexual psychopaths” to medical institutions instead of prison. In 1998, public outrage over the rape and murder of Jimmy Ryce, spurred the Florida Legislature to pass a civil commitment law.

Under this law, a sex offender, after the completion of their sentence, may go through a an evaluation to determine the level of risk for re-offending. The State may pursue a civil proceeding designed to involuntarily commit the individual to secure facility for sex offender treatment.

Restrictions on Sex Offenders in Florida

There are over 160 Florida municipalities that impose sex offender restrictions. Many of them impose more stringent restrictions on a local level than the state of Florida requires. Here is the breakdown by our criminal defense attorney team in St. Petersburg:

Registering at the Local Sheriff’s Department

After the offender has been released from incarceration, they must register with a local Sheriff’s department. And they must do it in person. 

Providing All the Details in the Sex Offender Registry

The sex offender must provide detailed information about themselves when registering, including:

  1. Name
  2. Age
  3. Social Security Number
  4. Date of Birth
  5. A recent photograph
  6. Work Address
  7. Home Address
  8. Place of employment
  9. Description of crime committed

Can’t Live in the Vicinity of a Park, School, or Daycare

Convicted Sex offenders, once out of prison, aren’t allowed to live within 1,000 ft of any park playground, daycare, or school in Florida.

No Employment in Places Where Children are Present

Sex offenders are barred from working in a vocation that involves children, including playgrounds, daycare facilities, schools, play areas, etc. 

These are just some of the restrictions imposed on sex offenders who are released. It has caused the population of areas like Miracle Village to increase. It is a town where 50% of the population has committed some form of a registrable sexual offense. 

There is also ostracization in society. After being released from prison, the lack of opportunities leaves many people who are registered sex offenders unemployed and homeless.

Many Causes for Harsh Sentences in Florida

Crimes involving a sexual component are viewed by the general public and law makers as especially egregious. There is also a pervasive attitude both in society and the criminal justice system that those convicted of sex offenses “cannot change” or be rehabilitated. Likewise, the stated and express purpose of the criminal laws in Florida is to impose punishment. Accordingly, the sentencing laws reflect these societal attitudes and the position of local and state law makers that those convicted of a sex offense deserve no mercy, must be heavily monitored and their behavior restricted for at least 25 years after conviction, and should serve long prison sentences and then be indefinitely committed afterward for “treatment.” Recent moral panics conflating prostitution with sex trafficking have further spurred the Florida Legislature and prosecutors to extend this reasoning to crimes that are not registerable sex offenses, but nevertheless include a sexual component.

If there is one thing that our defense attorneys in St. Petersburg have learned over the years, it is that not every allegation of criminal sexual conduct is true. Further, there are many cases where the allegations are inflated or exaggerated well beyond what the actual conduct involved.

In such cases, the stakes are high. Contact our criminal defense attorney in St. Petersburg for assistance. We can help! Contact us today for a free consultation. 

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.