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Those Convicted of Sex Crimes Must Follow Florida Law Requirements When Visiting Schools, Parks, Child Care Facilities

After conviction and release from prison, those convicted of sex crimes may be faced with a confusing legal puzzle when it comes to moving forward with their lives. Some places, generally those where children are present, may be off-limits or have certain restrictions when it comes to people with sex offender status. How does a convicted sex offender visit his or her son or daughter at school for lunch? How does a convicted sex offender visit a park or pick a child up from a child care center? These are all questions that must be taken seriously to avoid breaking the law.

A story from 2011 demonstrates the confusion that a convicted sex offender may face when attempting to visit a child at school in Florida. According to TCPalm.com, Brian Hamlin, a convicted and registered sex offender had arranged to visit his now ex-wife’s child for lunch in September of 2011. Mr. Hamlin, who was 33-years-old at the time, had been convicted of two counts of solicitation of a minor in Texas in 2006.

When Mr. Hamlin arrived at Osceola Magnet school to visit the child, he signed in at the front office. However, under a 2010 Florida law, he also should have notified the school principal in writing that he intended to visit the school that day, should have notified the principal’s office when coming and leaving, and should have notified the principal’s office that he was a registered sex offender. According to the law, he also should have been under supervision during his time at the school. When Principal Susan Roberts determined that Mr. Hamlin was a sex offender, she contacted the district on how to proceed.

After Ms. Roberts contact the district office, it became clear to both the district, and law enforcement, that the policies in place were not sufficiently clear when it came to convicted sex offenders visiting schools. While it appears that Mr. Hamlin had actually sent a letter to the school to notify Ms. Roberts of his intent to visit, and had visited several other times, his failure to notify her when he came and left opened him up to first-degree misdemeanor charges under Florida law. However, it also appears that sex offenders were not given notice of the 2010 changes to the Florida law, which is required. Due to the lack of notification, Mr. Hamlin was not prosecuted for the alleged violations. Following the incident at Osceola Magnet School, officers vowed to notify convicted sex offenders of the law.

State Law

In 2013, the law regarding convicted sex offenders visiting schools, parks, and child care facilities can be found in Florida Statute Title XLVI, Chapter 856, provision 856.022. First, the law applies to those people who have been convicted of committing, or attempting, soliciting, or conspiring to commit certain criminal offenses, outlined by the statute. Such offenses include kidnapping, false imprisonment and luring a person under 18 years old and where the offender was not a parent or guardian; sexual battery, unlawful sexual activity with a minor, procuring from or selling of prostitution of a minor, computer pornography, and other such offenses. However, it is important to note that if the convicted person has been removed from the requirement to register as a sex offender, the law does not apply.

Under the law, the persons described above may not knowingly approach, contact or communicate with a child less than 18 years old in any public park, building or property that is a public park or playground with the intent to engage in conduct of or communication of any type of a sexual nature. This applies only to those persons who committed offenses on or after May 26, 2010.

Additionally, if a convicted sex offender as described under the law, wishes to visit any pre-K through 12th grade school or child care facility, or the property of a school or child care facility, he or she must do several things: (1) notify the school board, principal, superintendent or facility owner in writing of the intent to visit; (2) notify the facility owner or principal when he or she arrives and leaves the facility or school; and (3) remain under supervision of a school official or chaperone for the duration of the visit. Failure to comply with the law in Florida is a first degree misdemeanor charge.

The law carves out two exceptions for complying with the notification and supervision requirements. First, convicted sex offenders can visit the school for voting purposes during designated voting hours without notification and supervision under the law. Second, a convicted sex offender may drop off or pick up his or her children or grandchildren without following the notification and supervision requirements.

The laws regarding convicted sex offenders in Florida can be confusing. If you have any questions, or if you have been charged with a sexual offense, you should seek out the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact the attorneys at Hanlon Law today for a confidential consultation.