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School tragedy may prompt harsher sex offender laws

The recent school tragedy in Connecticut has prompted a variety of frank discussions on the subject of school security.

Florida readers may be surprised to learn that there is no national policy or governing body that sets standards for school security. Rather, the matter is decided locally, by individual school districts. Considering that there are more than 13,000 such entities nationwide, there can be significant differences in approach.

In Florida, school visitors' IDs are checked against a national database of sex offenders. In contrast, other states may not check IDs at all. Some schools may also use metal detectors, although that approach is also not uniform. The grounds of some schools are fenced in; others are not. Some schools permit outdoor recess under teacher supervision; others do not offer the option.

Regarding sex crimes, some Florida officials question whether registration is sufficient to deter the offense of traveling to meet a minor. Under Florida law, the crime usually consists of an offender using the Internet to lure a minor; traveling to meet that minor at a designated meeting place for alleged, illegal sexual conduct; and an attempt to fulfill the sex crime.

Many Florida authorities have launched aggressive enforcement campaigns against this particular sex crime in recent months, setting up elaborate sting operations where undercover officers pose as a minor on the Internet, arrange a meeting place with an adult, and then arrest the adult upon his or her arrival at the meeting place.

Some authorities may also be examining whether patrols should be set up near school grounds. For example, schools may offer WiFi, or a wireless Internet connection, to portable devices within range of the school building. Authorities may fear that minor school children will communicate with offenders on their portable electronic devices, possibly arranging a meeting location at the edge or just beyond school property.

In the wake of school tragedies, lawmakers may be tempted to re-examine the procedural and constitutional protections afforded to alleged sex offenders, and local authorities may be tempted to step up their enforcement efforts. For anyone charged with a sex crime, such a political climate only underscores the need for an experienced criminal defense attorney. The right to have an attorney present should be requested at the earliest opportunity, to preserve a defendant's case.

Source: Time, "School Security: Why It's So Hard to Keep Kids Safe," Bonnie Rochman, Dec. 18, 2012

ยท Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Orlando Defense Attorney for Traveling to Meet a Minor Charges page.

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