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Our Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Highlights the Risks of Failing to Register as a Sex Offender

In Florida, if you're convicted of certain sex crimes like rape, sexual battery, or offenses involving minors, you must register as a sex offender. This requirement also applies if you've committed sexually motivated offenses, even if you weren't officially charged with them. It's not just about convictions in Florida; if you move into the state with prior qualifying convictions, you still have to register.

Registration isn't just for those with criminal convictions; if you've been adjudicated as delinquent for certain sex offenses, you'll also need to register. The rules go beyond just the type of offense – factors like age and the relationship between the offender and victim can also determine registration requirements. A Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney can help determine whether or not you must register.

Florida Sex Offender Statutes 

Florida Statute 943.0435 outlines the offenses that result in sex offender status. These kinds of crimes will designate the defendant as an offender:

  • Kidnapping of a minor by someone who isn't their parent or guardian 
  • False imprisonment of a minor by someone who isn't their parent or guardian
  • Luring or enticing a minor by someone who isn't their parent or guardian
  • Human trafficking

There's also a more serious category called sexual predators. Someone is labeled a sexual predator under Florida Statute 775.21 if they are:

  • Convicted of a sexually violent offense 
  • Committed under the Jimmy Ryce Act and received a court order designating them as a sexual predator

If someone is convicted of a crime listed in the sexual offender statute, they must register at the local sheriff’s office within 48 hours. If their location changes, they must update the sheriff’s office of their new city.

How to Register as a Sex Offender in Florida

After being convicted of a qualifying offense, individuals must register at the local sheriff's office within 48 hours.  This involves providing personal details, possibly fingerprints, and a photo. It's important to remember that registration isn't a one-time thing; any changes, like a new address or job, must be reported within 48 hours. Not following these rules can lead to serious consequences, including more charges and longer registration periods. 

Individuals are required to maintain registration with the Florida Department of Corrections for life unless their status changes according to Florida Statute 943.04354, they get a pardon, or their conviction is overturned through post-conviction relief. 

If a person plans to travel or move, they have to tell the local sheriff's office within 48 hours (or 21 days if they're going internationally). Every year on their birthday month and six months after, they must go in person to the sheriff's office in the county where they live to report.

Given the complexity of the registration process, it's wise to seek experienced legal help. A Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney can guide you through the requirements, ensure you comply, and address any legal issues that arise. By following the rules and getting legal advice, you can fulfill your obligations as a sex offender under Florida law.

Information Needed When Preparing to Register 

When you register as a sex offender in Florida, you’ll be required to share in-depth information about your background. Be prepared to provide authorities with the following information: 

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Social security number
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Hair and eye color
  • Tattoos or identifying marks
  • Fingerprints
  • Palm prints
  • Photograph
  • Occupation and employer
  • Permanent, temporary, or legal residence address
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Vehicle description and color
  • License plate numbers of all owned vehicles
  • Home and cellphone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Date and location of convictions with crime descriptions
  • Passport details (if applicable)
  • Immigration status for non-citizens
  • Professional licenses
  • Current employment, volunteer work, or enrollment at educational institutions

You are required to update this information regularly, including any changes to your residence, employment, or personal status. Failure to provide accurate and timely updates can result in legal consequences. You’ll also need to attend regular check-ins with law enforcement to verify your information and compliance with registration requirements. It's essential to understand and adhere to these obligations to avoid further penalties and ensure compliance with Florida's sex offender registration laws.

Penalties for Failing to Register as a Sex Offender

If someone doesn't register with the sheriff's office within 48 hours, they commit a third-degree felony. This can lead to up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If a person travels without informing the local sheriff’s department of their arrival, they can face similar consequences. 

Failing to update the sheriff's office about changes in residence, employment, or other personal information within the required timeframe can also result in serious penalties. These penalties may include further criminal charges, extended registration periods, and potential imprisonment. Understanding and adhering to the registration requirements is essential to avoid these severe consequences and fulfill legal obligations as a sex offender in accordance with the law.

Legal Pathways to Exit the Florida Sex Offender Registry

Having to register as a sex offender can significantly complicate various aspects of your life. It can affect your housing options, making it harder to find a place to live, as well as impacting your ability to secure loans and even your chances of finding employment. It’s no wonder so many people are eager to find ways off the registry.

Not everyone is eligible to request removal from the sex offender registry. Only individuals who have been registered for 25 years and have not committed further offenses are eligible to apply for removal. Additionally, certain initial offenses disqualify individuals from being removed from the registry. Below is a summary of these offenses, which can prevent individuals from being removed from the sex offender registry:

  • Abduction
  • False imprisonment
  • Lewd and lascivious battery involving a victim under 12 years old
  • Lewd and lascivious molestation involving a victim under 12 years old
  • Lewd and lascivious battery against an elderly or disabled person
  • Sexual battery (rape)

Petitioning the Circuit Court for Removal

Those eligible for removal must file a petition with the criminal division of the circuit court, where they were first convicted and labeled as sexual predators. If the initial conviction happened out of state, the petition should go to the criminal division of the circuit court in their new area. Convicted sex offenders might have to finish a sex offender treatment program and provide necessary documents. As there's no straightforward procedure for this, having the assistance of a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney is essential.

Challenging the Registration With New Evidence

Alternatively, if there is new evidence in your case, you might have the opportunity to appeal your conviction. For instance, if your conviction involved lascivious offenses and a minor later recanted their statement, you could potentially appeal your conviction based on this new evidence. This avenue may be the only option for individuals who are not eligible to petition for removal from the sex offender registry.

Specific criteria come into play if you receive a pardon or if your conviction is overturned through other means, which can bolster your petition for removal from the registry.

Upon approval of your petition, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will remove your name from the registry, granting you a semblance of anonymity once again.

How Our Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

Florida boasts some of the strictest public safety and sex crime laws in the nation. Despite ongoing efforts to amend these laws, it's important to adhere to Florida's sex offender registration requirements to avoid further legal repercussions. While activists push for changes to current registry laws, individuals can still seek removal from the list if they meet the specified criteria.

Continuing to fulfill registration obligations is imperative to avoid additional penalties. Seeking guidance from a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Robert David Malove is a smart move. You need help navigating the deregistration process, and our experienced South Florida criminal defense team can be your guide.