Although the general public typically uses the phrases “sexual predator” and “sexual offender,” Florida laws recognize a difference between the two terms. Here’s what you need to know about the difference between sexual predators and sexual offenders in Florida.
According to recent statistics, the number of sex crime convictions in Florida has risen by over half in the past fifteen years. Part of the reason for the rise is the increase in number and severity of sexual offenses on the books in the state. Among the sex crimes on Florida’s books are laws against
kidnapping of a minor,
luring or enticing a child,
lewd or lascivious offenses with a minor,
false imprisonment of a minor,
sexual misconduct, and
video voyeurism of a minor.
In addition, Florida also recognizes convictions for similar offenses in other states, so those convicted of such crimes continue to live under the classification of “sex offender” and “sex predator” even if they move to Florida from another state.
Although both sex offenders and sex predators must register with the state of Florida, the two classifications carry certain distinctions from each other. In Florida, the classification of “sex offender” refers to an individual who is convicted of a sex crime and has no prior history of such crimes. No matter the circumstances surrounding the crime or the conviction, a single guilty plea or verdict makes a Floridian a sex offender under Florida laws. Even a single conviction in an out-of-state court for a sexual offense brands one as a sex offender should that person subsequently move to Florida.
In contrast, the designation of sex predator represents a much more serious classification. To be classified as a sex predator in Florida, one must have committed either two second degree sex offenses or one first degree sex offense, like rape. Ultimately the decision rests in the hands of the trial judge, but typically a sex predator is one with a history of more severe crimes than a sex offender.
A sex predator faces much more stringent restrictions in Florida than a sex offender. A sex offender must register with the sheriff’s office in the county in which he or she lives when they first move to the area. The sheriff is then obligated to inform everyone within a two-mile radius of the sex predator’s home of his or her arrival. This obligation is typically one that lasts for as long as the sex offender lives, outlasting any probation the individual may have been given.
Sex offenders in Florida are obligated to register with local authorities in Florida multiple times per year. In addition, sex offenders face several other legal obligations, including:
Informing local authorities of their presence in Florida,
informing authorities of any travel plans to other counties in Florida, and
updating local authorities on new places of work, new residences, new vehicles, and all email addresses and phone numbers.
Failing to register as a sex offender in Florida has strict penalties. A first offense carries up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $5,000. Subsequent violations may include mandatory electronic monitoring for up to two years.