The Ft Lauderdale Sex Offender Residency Restriction was declared unconstitutional. Wait… what?!?! A Florida SORR was declared unconstitutional?
YES! The municipal ordinance in the City of Ft. Lauderdale that prohibited registered sex offenders from living within 1400 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, school bus stops, etc. was found to violate the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution! Hold on… what? Are you serious?
YES! We’ve known for a while (since February 16th) but have been waiting to make the official announcement until we had an order back from the Judge. We just wanted to make 1000% sure. But we’re serious and excited! Many registrants in Fort Lauderdale, FIFTY PERCENT OF WHICH ARE HOMELESS because there’s virtually nowhere for them to live, are no longer subject to the City’s draconian and ineffective residency restrictions! But how did this happen?
Two brave registrants who were going to be kicked out of their Ft. Lauderdale homes stood up and said NO! After being charged with violating the City’s ordinance, they fought for their right to remain in their homes and fought the charge. Represented by Patrick Trese and Valerie Jonas (who represents us in our Internet Identifier case and who we retained for our Ex Post Facto challenge) they fought the charge and the Judge dismissed the violation, finding the ordinance unconstitutional on its face. So, what does this mean?
This means that the ordinance cannot be applied retroactively. More specifically, it doesn’t apply to people whose offenses pre-date the ordinance (2007). Anyone who offended after the ordinance was passed is still subject to the ordinance. So, can registrants with offenses before 2007 live anywhere in Ft. Lauderdale?
Not exactly… there’s one more caveat… Florida has a 1,000-foot State Statute, which was passed in 2004. So, to simplify; if your offense was after the Ft. Lauderdale ordinance was passed, you are subject to a 1,400 foot restriction in Ft Lauderdale. If your offense was before the Ft. Lauderdale ordinance, but after the State ordinance, you are subject to a 1,000 foot restriction. And, if your offense pre-dates the Florida State SORR (October 1, 2004), you are not subject to any residency restriction in Ft. Lauderdale.
Many of you may be asking, “so what about me? I don’t live in Ft. Lauderdale”. Well, although this is not a decision binding on the entire state, this decision is a first crack in the wall (more like a blow from a sledgehammer). Recall, we have a State statute, within the State we have multiple County ordinances and within each County there are multiple City ordinances. Although this is a win for the defendants at only the City level (albeit in one of the 10 most populous cities in Florida), it’s powerfully persuasive. We also all share the same State and Federal constitution. Also, recall we have an upcoming trial in a County challenge in Federal Court!
The bottom line is; this is a huge win for the two defendants, who stood up and risked criminal penalty and the attorneys who fought for them. In turn, it’s a huge win for all of us!