Floriduh county adds sex offender restrictions. It should matter to you.

In Florida, registered sex offenders can not live within 1,000 feet of a school, church, day care center, or a park. Florida municipalities set up even more restrictions. See Wernick, In Accordance with a Public Outcry: Zoning Out Sex Offenders Through Residence Restrictions in Florida, 58 Fla. L. Rev. 1147, 1163-1164 (2006). In Miami, despite its density, prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of such places. As a result, in some places like Miami, they set up a shanty town under a bridge because they could not find anywhere else in Miami where it was legal for them to live. (source)

Lake County, Florida wants to go even further — prohibiting sex offenders from living within 500 feet of each other. (source)

The county commission chairwoman, Leslie Campione was proud of the effort.

“We’re on the cutting edge to protect our children and to protect our communities,” Campione said. “Even if we have challenges, we’re on good ground here.”
(source)

Who will stand up for the sex offenders? Not many.

What people generally miss in this kind of story is that when the government targets one group, even an “evil” group like sex offenders, it starts the ball rolling toward everyone’s rights.

If the government can impose absurd conditions like this on someone who is a “sex offender” then why not someone else? Are “sex crimes” something special? Of course they are. The sex offender boogeyman preys on our deepest fears. What parent is willing to risk their kid being snatched up from the playground? It is pretty easy to whip up a room full of parents into a crazy caucasian frappe when you start talking about “the children.” But do these laws really help? If a guy has a van, some candy, and the desire, does it matter if he lives across the street from the school or 100 miles away?

Worse yet, if you look at the list of “sex offenses,” they are not limited to crimes that would make me feel uncomfortable living next to someone. In Florida, you can be convicted of obscenity and wind up on a register. I know people who have been charged with, and who even went to jail for violating the obscenity laws. I’d feel comfortable being their next door neighbor. I’d feel comfortable letting them babysit my kids. I have never even heard of someone charged with violating an obscenity law who I wouldn’t break bread with. Yet, a conviction for that “crime” — the crime of having a movie that the government doesn’t like — is enough to set you on the spiral to homelessness.

18 year old who had sex with a 15 year old girlfriend? Sex offender. Underage kid who took a nude photo of herself? Sex offender. Pissing in an alley because you couldn’t find a bathroom? Indecent exposure — sex offender. I’d be fine if my kids were being babysat by someone who got convicted of those crimes. But, Flori-duh decides that it wants to use the politically charged “sex offender” status to see how far it can push its authority. After all, who wants to stick up for rapists and child molesters?

When you say “not me” — you need to realize that when you stand up for these “untouchables” you don’t need to do so out of compassion for them (although that is your right). You need to stand up for them because you are really standing up for yourself.

H/T: Blevins

16 Responses to Floriduh county adds sex offender restrictions. It should matter to you.

  1. blueollie says:

    Good points. Lots of time we screw ourselves with trying to come up with the “easy” fix that sounds good…until one thinks about it in any depth.

  2. Alpha says:

    I was speaking to a young lady about the SOPA/PIPA/ACTA legislation the other day and I mentioned that I don’t support it at all, and her first response was,

    “It’s supposed to stop child pornography! Are you telling me that you’re some sicko who supports child pornography!?”

    I don’t think we realize how polarized the government has made us. Everyone – while we hate that ACTA and similar legislation deals a lethal blow to our human rights – wants to support such measures because no one wants to be labeled “that one sicko who supports kid porn”, you know?

    The American system has become so team oriented. I spoke to a bright young man not too long ago as well who shocked me when he said, “You can’t vote based on individual merit – you have to vote based on the party line or nothing will get accomplished.” His exact words – I was absolutely shocked.

    All the government has to do is attach one stigmatic item to their cause and no matter how fucked it is, people will support it so that they aren’t labeled as supporting the stigma.

    Its ingenious, really.

    • The Conservative government up here in Canada recently used the “either stand with us or with the child pornographers” line regarding a new online surveillance bill. It didn’t work out very well for them.

    • jdgalt says:

      This is the same strategy that both parties — but especially the Left — now use for every political purpose: Start by making up a phony emergency. Then demand that politicians “do something” about the “crisis,” and demonize anyone who dares to argue with you.

      It’s about damn time our nation stops heeding the cries of “wolf.”

  3. Zach says:

    I actually live in in Lake Co. So this story is particularly relevant to me. I agree whole heartedly with your assessment of how the undesirable elements of our society joined at the hip to the rest of us. Not because we necessarily support their choices, but because, as you said, if the government is allowed to infringe upon the rights of one group it is inevitable that it will infringe upon the rights of others. When you defined what the title “sex offender” can now include it serves as a good illustration of how broad this classification is. I have presented similair points of view to people when I voice my objection to places like Gitmo and the argument is quite similair: Them- ” you support terrorists?!?”, Me – ” no, those guilty of crimes should be punished appropriately, but you better make damn sure that if you’re going to charge and sentence these people that you follow the correct procedure!” the reasoning behind this notion is not unique to me. After all we have not created and maintained our legal system to reward criminals, we created it to protect the innocent from the whims and oppression of the unjust elements whithin our society. In fact, what you and I both speak of has never been about helping sex offenders or terrorists…it’s been about looking at the consequences that these fear based laws could have on the innocent and law abiding public under the worst case scenario and determining if those consequences align with the American way; that of freedom, justice and equality, not popularity. I am grateful to be a lawyer who will hopefully have the opportunity to impact this law an those like it.

  4. Actually with the issue of sex offenders you cannot give yourself the “luxury” of equating this crime and the people who commit them with bank robbers and drug dealers. Sex Offenders and (no we dont Prosecute for having underage consentual sex anymore, so You can quit using that argument) feed off each other literally. The further apart society can keep them from each other and from us the better I like it. Then you have the very real example of an Offender by the name of Randy Young. Young an offender himself seems to have a little trust fund and a penchant for buying houses in residential communities then renting those houses to 6,8,10 offenders for about 20 bucks a foot, Now I can appreciate Randy’s business ventures like anyone else, but dropping 10 sex offenders in a neighborhood proceeds to decimate it and the safety of that neighborhood..never allow yourself to under-estimate what offenders will do to any bone you throw them, they will take the bone and eat your hand off to the wrist..

    • J DeVoy says:

      “Sex Offenders [...] feed off each other literally.”

      Evidence/studies showing this? It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s true, but it’s easy to surmise the worst about sex offenders and have it go unchallenged.

      Also, sex offender registries are overbroad and these kinds of initiatives ruin lives – especially of young people who get caught up in sexting, some examples of which have previously been discussed on this blog. There are numerous cases of people who are not pederasts, rapists or undesirables having their lives ruined by these kinds of laws, and the public has the right to know if there is any valid data to support them:

      http://www.crimeandfederalism.com/2010/07/the-hell-of-sex-offender-registration.html

      http://www.crimeandfederalism.com/2006/02/i_shouldnt_have.html

      http://www.crimeandfederalism.com/2006/02/plea_bargaining.html

      somewhat related http://www.crimeandfederalism.com/2011/03/illinois-to-put-gun-owners-on-sex-offender-list.html

    • Ann says:

      I can agree that keeping children safe from sexual predators and repeat sex offenders is very important as I have a child of my own, but the issue is that the sex offender laws are too broad and serve as a catch all and over saturates the system with offenders who have no business being labeled as dangerous. I myself was convicted of a “sex offense” and I do not have to register in the state because the act was consensual and the state’s legal department reviewed the case and deemed I do not have to register (thank goodness). Not to mention the “victim” in the case was older than me and of sound mind. The judge in my case even went so far as to encourage my attorney on record to appeal the decision as the judge did not believe that I should have to register as a sex offender (this was prior to the state’s legal department making the finding that I did not have to register). The judge stated that he felt very strongly that in my case the legislation was flawed and did not apply at all. In actuality there is a very small number of sex offenders who re-offend. It has always been my opinion that the most dangerous sex offenders are not the one’s on the list but the one’s who have not been caught yet.

  5. senpai71 says:

    Although you said it in the article, I think one thing bears repeating: Even aside from those unfairly tarred with the ‘sex offender’ brush (those Romeo and Juliet cases, public urination as indecent exposure, obscenity etc.), the fact is that there are ‘real’ sex offenders and they need representation. This part is too quickly forgotten in many articles, which talk about the vagaries of sex offender laws and move almost immediately to the “sex offenses are categorized too broadly” section.

    Put simply, sex offenders (I’m talking here about serious crimes – rape, child molesting etc.) are individuals who have committed a crime which society a) finds abhorrent and b) worries that they may commit again, once released.

    It’s the first part that really gets us all riled up, and allows legislatures to enact crazy laws like the one discussed in this article, with little or no opposition. As you say, who will stand up for the sex offenders?

    But it’s the second part that’s more ‘interesting’, from a legal perspective. Realistically, we worry that ANY criminal will repeat their crime when released from detention, but when we let a burglar out of prison, we don’t stop them from being near houses. When we let a mugger out of prison, we don’t stop them being around people. However, with child molesters, because there’s a concern that they might not be able to help themselves, we stop them being around children.

    I would venture that no child molester actually WANTS to be a child molester – in the majority of cases, there is some part of their brain chemistry that doesn’t work the way it ‘should’. I have personally known two such individuals (one very closely) and they both struggled mightily against their urges, one to the point of several suicide attempts. They both wanted to be ‘normal’ and have normal sexual urges and both tried hard (using therapy and prescribed drugs) to quell their unnatural desires. One failed, and is back in prison and one is (so far) successful. Although success does not equate to a normal life.

    This is obviously not to say that such individuals should be allowed unfettered access to schools and playgrounds, or even be forgiven for their crimes, but they should be treated with fairness AND compassion. This law does neither.

    • marcos says:

      The vast majority of “sex offenders” wouldn’t be considered offenders at all in most of the civilized world. Real rapers and real pedophiles (people who have sex with prepubescent children) are extremely rare. Almost all the cases are related to a few, often vaguely defined, catch-all crimes, like “lewd and lascivious acts”, “sexual battery”, “sexual harassment” (that can mean anything from peeing in public, making sexual noises to touching interpreted as “groping” ) or to “statutory rape”
      There’s way too much hysteria and lots of lies about this subject. Ironically, do you know what all these hysterical wackos fear the most? Being asked about verifiable evidence related to the supposed “sexual crimes” and punishing false complaints about such supposed crimes.

  6. A Pimp Named Slickback says:

    The problem with these sex offender laws that are designed to protect children by establishing some “safe distance” is that they completely ignore the fact that the overwhelming majority of predators aren’t on a registry. It is well documented that a child is far more likely to be abused by a family member or friend than they are by a stranger; and given the astounding rate at which sex offenses go unreported, there is a better chance of your kid being molested by their uncle than by the registered sex offender living next door with the government breathing down his neck. And even if you zone sex offenders out of your neighborhood, a determined pervert will find a way to get your kid.

    I’m not defending sex offenders either (and it’s sad that I have to preface my opinion this way), but I think that once you’ve done your time, you’re even with society. That should mean that there aren’t any restrictions to further ostracize you from everyone else.

    Regardless of what actually happens, our correctional system is supposed to be rehabilitative. If it were purely punitive, then why offer/require convicts to undergo treatment? We do that because we know they will be released one day, and we want them to leave prison better than when they went in. But if you approach a certain class of criminal as untreatable, how can you even offer a treatment knowing it won’t work? And if that is the case, why do we ever release that class of criminal? If society thinks sex offenders can never be rehabilitated, why aren’t they simply given life sentences for first offenses?

  7. Mellow Caucasian says:

    “a crazy caucasian frappe”

    Brilliant!

  8. [...] Controversy I admit that for all of his PMS’y posturing (full of obscenities), I really like The Legal Satyricon. Randazza takes on tough topics with logic and writes with a great deal of clarity. Here he talks about our knee jerk reaction to sex-offenders (in terms of where they can and can’t live). [...]

  9. andrews says:

    If it were purely punitive, then why offer/require convicts to undergo treatment

    In Florida, we don’t. They simply serve their time in prison, and then are transferred to a “treatment facility” outside of Arcadia which is distinguishable from a prison because the sign is different.

    We call it “civil commitment”. The theory is that they will get treatment now that the sentence is served. No one other than ASAs believe it’s anything other than imprisonment.

    Of course, we also recognize that there is no treatment for being a sex offender, so that saves us the cost of going through the motions.

  10. Simon says:

    What does the law say if the sex offender is a priest or teacher?

  11. YVJeffery says:

    Amazing!!! heh

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