I've been tooling about the Florida Senate, checking up on the progress of S1430, Dave Aronberg's (D-Greenacres) proposed bill dealing with the residential restrictions for sex offenders mess.
Quick to jump on board the Fear Train, over 100 Florida municipalities decided to one-up the state 1000 feet guidelines, extending residency restrictions in their communities by prohibiting those residents convicted of a sexual offense from living 1000 to 1500 and in many cases 2500 feet where children are known to gather.
In many cases, these "personalized" restrictions banished an offender from living within the community...period.
Within a couple of years of such jerking away of the welcome mat, the DOC was evicting those so exiled by their city and town fathers from beneath bridges, state parks and anywhere else one kicked out of their community might escape the measuring wheel.
Additionally, I'm fairly certain the State might have caught of whiff of impending unconstitutionality once newspapers world-wide ran the story of those living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway, as a result of the 2500 feet residency restrictions deed-restricting Miami from those people, many who have never laid a hand on anyone physically, much less a child.
Since introduction, the Aronberg proposal has been kicked around a bit through committee, but I see a glimmer of proactive thinking, i.e. the establishment of no-loitering zones and the spelling-out of what exactly constitutes a kid hang-out; however, rationalization for the continuation of residency restrictions still reigns supreme through Tallahassee. Although the state finally cites research indicating most cases of sex offenses against children are committed by someone who has developed a relationship with a child, our elected officials twist the logic through insinuation of what better way for an offender to develop said relationship than if a child passes the home of such everyday?
A counterpoint is that residency exclusion zones at least limit the opportunity for an offender to begin the initial process of breaking down the child’s natural wariness of strangers. For instance, if the child goes by the house of a man who waves a friendly greeting every day, he or she may be less likely to consider that person as a stranger. The offender could use that as a point of vulnerability to begin cultivating an exploitative relationship with the child.
Sort of like those senior citizens who approach your child in the mall and start talking to them without parental permission--you know, snow-haired friendly strangers cultivating a relationship with a "how cute" and "can I have a hug" and "here's a piece of candy".
A huge tip of the logic stretch of the hat to you, state Senators.
The state guys and gals are still attempting to handcuff judges as well, legislating just what the court can and cannot do in such matters of sexual offense. While skimming through the further judicial stripping of our judges, the one single statute that has so effected the lives of so many Floridians--and their families--jumps out at me like a strobe-light.
Lewd or lascivious offenses upon or in the presence of a person under 16.
Sounds pretty terrible, doesn't it?
Well, it gets worse.
Imagine being charged, convicted and sentenced under 800.04, having never committed anything upon or in the presence of a person under 16....
...because there was no person--no victim--under 16.
F.S. 800.04--the bread-and-butter of the Florida Sex Offender Registry--is the the law with the loophole that most likely made your neighbor a sex offender and the ultimate victim of the State of Florida.
Come back Friday and I'll tell you how this law hides a rattlesnake.