FDLE’s Sex Offender Database Lies To Florida Citizens

pinoccio.jpgEver get the feeling that your Government is not being truthful? Like the old saying, how can you tell when a politician is lying? His lips are moving. Well, don’t you feel so much safer knowing that FDLE spends a zillion dollars a year tracking and publishing information regarding sex offenders here in the state of Florida? Don’t you have a sex offender tracker app on your phone?

Let’s face it. This is the information age, and our Constitution permits free speech, so its legal to publish information regarding a criminal conviction. But just in case Google isn’t doing its job, our Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has frightened the public into thinking that they must maintain a website which publishes the photo of all sex offenders. Their sex offender website gives the following reason for spending your taxpayer dollars: “This information is made available to interested citizens to help them educate themselves about the possible presence of such offenders in their local communities.”

Makes sense, right? Floridians may wish to “educate themselves about the possible presence of such offenders in their local communities.” But the website is lying. FDLE is not being truthful with the public. FDLE’s website is full of people which are NOT present in our local communities.

First of all, it’s important to understand how the various states handle sex offenses. Not all sex offenses are permitted to be published on state run websites. Most states, for example, deems certain offenses exempt from registration and public notification requirements. That being said, all sex offenders who travel out of state are required to check with local authorities regarding the state’s requirements. That’s why many sex offenders vacation out of the country, in places that do not require additional Big Brother monitoring.

I received a call this week from a PhD. student, currently out of state. He has a prior sex offense out of state, in which he finished his probation a decade ago. As a sex offender, getting off probation is not easy. You must be medically cleared by a psychologist (every sex offender gets “treatment”). You must be cleared by the Department of Corrections. You must be cleared by the prosecution. And, you must be cleared by the Judge. My client got the “all clear” signal, and was able to terminate his probation early.

He has since married and started a family. His type of offense does not require registration in his home state, nor will his state publish his information on their sex offender internet site. However, he decided to vacation in Florida back in 2010. Even though he has no registration requirements in his home state, out of an abundance of caution he contacted the local sheriff in the Florida town to be visited. The Florida sheriff requested that he physically come into their office when he arrived in Florida for his vacation, so he did just that. He gave the sheriff detailed information regarding where he was staying, and for how long. Our government, basically, knew when he was coming, and on what flight he was leaving. The vacation lasted four nights, five days.

Recently, he discovered something shocking–his photo and information has been published on FDLE’s sex offender website. FDLE refuses to take it down two years after his vacation!

Ok, let’s go back to what our taxpayers should be paying for, as FDLE is given money so that “information is made available to interested citizens to help them educate themselves about the possible presence of such offenders in their local communities.”

So, our taxpayer dollars are being wasted–again. Once again, our government claims that they are providing information about “the possible presence” of offenders “in their local communities.” If FDLE was given information about when a sex offender was arriving and departing, why mislead local communities into thinking that this individual is still present, when he’s not? Sure, we all make mistakes, but FDLE was contacted, and repeated requests to remove the misleading information that this tourist was still in town were denied. FDLE refuses to remove the information.

According to FDLE, they keep tourist information on their website PERMANENTLY. Yep. Gee, how many tourists does a state like Florida have? FDLE is pretending that their registry provides information “to interested citizens to help them educate themselves about the possible presence of such offenders in their local communities”. They know that’s not true. They know their registry is full of people that have left our state YEARS ago! And you wonder why our state is hurting for money? You wonder why we can’t pay our teachers? You wonder why we can’t pay our firefighters? You wonder why we can’t buy our kids math books? Because we’re wasting our time and money tracking people that stayed here four nights on vacation years ago.

Here’s FDLE’s response to the situation: they claim that you become a resident of Florida for the purposes of the Sex Offender Registry on the 5th day of your visit to Florida. At 12:01am on the 5th day of your visit, you are a resident of Florida for purposes of the Sex Offender Registry and your information is posted to the public website PERMANENTLY. Stay that 5th day, and your information will be posted on FDLE’s public website for the rest of your life. Gee, I bet we don’t tell our visitors that, do we?

Look, I’m all for technology. The internet has started a revolution. But in this instance, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is using their technology to further punish folks that aren’t even in the state. That’s just wrong. As Paul Simon says, ‘these are the days of miracles and wonder, so don’t cry baby, don’t cry.’