Florida — Florida currently has the highest refuge rate for sex offenders, and all too often sexually violent predators slip through the cracks of our criminal justice and civil commitment systems; they are arrested and released, just to commit the same crime. It’s about time the government protects law abiding citizens and not the criminals.
This week, an aggressive legislative package regarding sexually violent predators sailed through its first two committees. These bills, which include Senate Bills 522, 524, 526, and 528, aim to keep Florida’s families and children safe.
On Monday, January 13, 2014, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously passed SB 526, sponsored by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park), which seeks to increase the length of sentences, prohibit incentive gain-time for offenders and extend monitoring after release for a number of adult-on-minor offenses. The committee also passed SB 528, sponsored by Senator Greg Evers (R-Baker), by a unanimous vote. This bill aims to better inform communities, law enforcement and families by requiring individuals registered in the sexually violent predator database to provide more information such as vehicle information, palm prints, and volunteer work at higher education institutions.
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs passed SB 522, sponsored by Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring), which would require a state attorney, law enforcement officer and victim’s advocate be included as advisory members of a team that evaluates offenders who are considered for civil confinement. Senate Bill 524, sponsored by Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood), was also passed through committee and would increase the responsibilities of the Department of Children and Families for sexually violent predators by ensuring specific criteria is met for the advisory members of the multidisciplinary team.
On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice took an additional step to ensure Florida’s families feel safe and secure in their communities by unanimously voting to eliminate the current 3-year statutory time limitation for prosecuting certain lewd, adult-on-minor offenses. Senate Bill 494, sponsored by Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Ft. Myers), aims to put protections into place that favor children rather than give predators the benefit of running out a clock to avoid prosecution.
Senator Don Gaetz said, “While government is limited in its ability to prevent all horrific crimes, the Florida Senate is determined to make Florida the most unfriendly state for those who seek to harm our children.”
Additionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 242, which aims to help protect more than 50,000 children who fall victim to identity theft every year. The bill, also known as the “Keeping I.D. Safe (KIDS) Act,” gives parents and guardians the authority to establish a security freeze on a child’s consumer report or record. Sponsored by Senator Nancy Detert (R-Venice), the KIDS Act also prohibits a consumer reporting agency from stating or implying that a security freeze reflects a negative credit history or rating.
Let’s hope our government gets this one right.