Remember Obama Care, with a requirement that all American citizens be required to buy something? Is there anything in the constitution that requires a citizen pay for anything? Well, if you’re a convicted sex offender, especially here in Orlando (where the sex offender task force seems to work around the clock) you’ll be paying registration fees for the rest of your life, even if you’ve already served all of your sentence. Hum.
This is America, right? Let’s say you’re convicted of possession of child pornography, once your “debt” is paid to society via a prison sentence and/or probation, it’s over, right? Wrong. For the rest of a sex offender’s life, he must report his whereabouts in person to the local sheriff’s office. In addition, with each change fo address (even temporary) he must report to the sheriff’s office and be photographed, fingerprints rolled, and provide additional housing information. After sheriff’s duties are completed–it’s not over–it’s the beginning of paying fees to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Supposedly, poverty is no reason to put somebody in prison. But, sex offenders are forced to pay “fees” forever. The fees are $25, to update driver’s license info within 48 hours of any change in permanent or temporary residence. Remember, “temporary” means staying somewhere for five (5) days total, during a calendar year!?!? Is this constitutional? Yep. A one week vacation requires registration, and fees when you get there. Imagine spending the first day of every vacation at the sheriff’s office, then at the DMV? Shoot me now! Then, when you return home, more registration fees to tell them you’re back! Wow. Driving two hours to visit mom and dad for the week? Register there. Pay fees. Drive home, let them know you’ve returned, pay fees again.
Is all this fee paying constitutional? This issue was “sort of” addressed in Tyler v. State, 2011 WL 3300165 (2nd DCA 2011), where the defendant was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender because he did not obtain an updated driver’s license after changing his residence. He challenged the constitutionality of forcing a sex offender to pay for constant updates to his driver’s license. Tyler claimed that he could not afford to update his information, and it’s unconstitutional to force him to do so. (after all, who’s hiring sex offender’s these days?)
The good news is that it seems as though the Tyler court may have been willing to tackle this issue favorably, but the facts weren’t ripe because Tyler presented no evidence of his inability to pay the fees. The court noted that “no law requires a typical resident, or even a typical felon, to obtain a driver’s license or identification card. On the other hand, sexual offenders such as Tyler are legally compelled to obtain this documentation every time they change their residences, and they are expressly required to pay for it”, Id at 3.
The court did not buy the prosecutor’s argument that this law is constitutional, noting that “we disagree with the State’s assertion … that his constitutional challenge has already been resolved against him by Florida’s appellate courts. None of the cases cited by the State, either in the circuit court or here, has upheld the statute against a constitutional challenge premised on the defendant’s indigence….Neither have we found such a case.” Id. at 4. Supposedly, a sex offender may be removed from registration requirements after many years have passed, but good luck getting a judge to do so (hey, it’s worth a try, the worst thing they can do is say no).