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Court Rules FL Sexual Predator Act Unconstitutional

A three-judge panel for the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Miami ruled unanimously on Wednesday that the Florida Sexual Predator Act is unconstitutional, because judges cannot evaluate an offender’s threat to the community. “We find that in the absence of a provision allowing for a hearing to determine whether the defendant presents a danger to the public sufficient to require registration and public notification, the Florida Sexual Predators Act violates procedural due process,” wrote the court, according to the Associated Press.

The Florida Sexual Predators Act requires all sexual offenders to register in an online public database, maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). In addition, authorities are required to notify the public, area child-care providers, and local schools of the person’s residence. The FDLE, anticipating an appeal to the ruling, has indicated it will continue its current procedures under the law.

While the 3rd District Court of Appeals only has jurisdiction over Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, its ruling could serve as a precedent for other state appellate courts. Additionally, sexual offender notification laws–commonly called Megan’s Laws–are in place for every state. The US Supreme Court is currently debating the constitutionality of sexual predator laws in Alaska and Connecticut.

Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that California has lost track of 33,296 sex offenders, or 44 percent of the 76,350 who registered with the state at least once, reported the Associated Press. Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law, argues that the problem exists primarily because the law relies on sex offenders to provide their own addresses.

Sources:

Associated Press 1/16/03; Orlando Sentinel 1/16/03; CNN.com 11/13/02; Feminist Daily News Wire

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