In previous posts on this blog, we have explored some of the reasons why the sex offender registration, while well-intentioned, may actually be less effective than people think. Since the registry was established, people are being required to register for an increasing number of offenses that may not be serious or indicative that a person may be a threat to others.
For example, people can be required to register as a sex offender if they are in a consenting sexual relationship with someone who is just below the age of consent or if they are caught for an offense like public urination, in some situations. These crimes are very different than violent, abusive or non-consensual sex crimes that we typically think of when we think of the registry. However, they are all crimes that can result in being labeled a sex offender.
A recent incident right here in Florida has reignited the debate over whether sex offender registry requirements need to be revisited. The case involved a couple who were having sex in the middle of the afternoon at Bradenton Beach. Not surprisingly, the man and woman were ultimately arrested and convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior.
Both the man and the woman were ordered to register as sex offenders. Evidently, this was required because a witness stated that a 3-year-old girl saw the encounter.
However, the information available on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s website paints quite a misleading picture. According to that information, the man’s offense was “lewd or lascivious exhibition” and the victim was under the age of 16. With just this information, it would be easy to jump to a very different conclusion about what the man actually had done.
Of course the couple’s actions were misguided and may have warranted some sort of penalty, but there are many people who argue that being forced to register as sex offenders would not seem appropriate in this case.
Unfortunately, authorities in Florida are coming down especially hard on sex offenses since the sex offender laws were put into place back in recent years. Because of this, anyone facing charges related to sexual misconduct can be at risk of having to register as a sex offender. In these situations, having a criminal defense attorney present can be crucial.
Source: The Florida Times Union, “Sex-on-the-beach conviction spurs talk of tweaking Florida sex offender laws,” July 9, 2015