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Florida sex offender registry lists offenders' addresses

A recent article, inviting readers to check the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Florida Sexual Offenders and Predators website, illustrates how far-reaching sex offender laws have become in the state, which some regard as leading the nation in having the most restrictive sex offender laws.

With a simple mouse click, computer users can find any sex offenders and predators living within a five-mile radius of a particular address in Florida. Over 53,500 people are now included on Florida's sex offender registry, representing an increase of nearly 50 percent in five years. Nationwide, the count exceeds 700,000.

With each passing year, it seems there are renewed legislative proposals to add to the existing restrictions in place against sex offenders, or to broaden the types of crimes for which people must register as a sexual offender. Yet such efforts are costly -- and may also be ineffective.

Although sex crimes against children have been decreasing since the 1990s, critics argue that studies have been unable to attribute that decline to harsher sentencing or more restrictive offender policies. What's more, Florida now spends an additional $36 million a year on sex offender programs. In addition, the number of inmates convicted of sex crimes has stayed constant between 2005 and 2010, according to Department of Corrections statistics.

Defendants convicted of a sex crime may face substantial limitations of their freedom, even after their sentence has been served. Inclusion on a sex offender registry is perhaps the most well-known example. Additional restrictions may include background checks for certain types of employment -- such as schools or jobs around children -- or restrictions on where sex offenders can live. Yet studies have similarly been unable to prove that limiting where sex offenders live or work can decrease sexual abuse or reoffending. To the contrary, one study indicates that the overwhelming majority of child sex offenders are those with familial authority.

For all of these reasons, the importance of mounting an aggressive defense cannot be overemphasized to those facing sex crime charges.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Where are sex offenders on Halloween? Check with FDLE," Oct. 31, 2012

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