Department of Law Enforcement

Sexual Offenders

What is the purpose of Florida's sexual offender and predator laws?

Florida has undertaken initiatives that are intended to protect citizens from sexual offenders and predators and prevent the long-term effects suffered by victims of sexual offenses. These initiatives emanate from laws governing
It is the intent of the Legislature that individuals convicted of sex crimes be given a designation that reflects the severity of the crime as well as their potential risk to others in the community. There are two criminal designations, sexual offender and sexual predator, with the predator designation intended to reflect a higher risk individual. The term sexually violent predator refers to a subset of offenders and predators that have been civilly committed under the Jimmy Ryce Act.

What is a sexual offender?

The designation of a person as a sexual offender is a status resulting from the conviction of certain crimes. There are several ways a person can be qualified and designated as a sexual offender, including
  • being convicted of committing, or attempting, soliciting, or conspiring to commit specified criminal offense(s) in Florida or similar offenses in another state or jurisdiction; and
  • being released from or currently serving parole, probation, or incarceration for a qualifying criminal offense on or after October 1, 1997 in Florida or in any other jurisdiction;
  • establishing or maintaining a residence in Florida and having a requirement to register or would have a requirement to register as a sexual offender in another state or jurisdiction; or
  • being adjudicated delinquent on or after July 1, 2007, for committing, or attempting, soliciting, or conspiring to commit specified criminal offenses in Florida or similar offenses in another state or jurisdiction when the juvenile was 14 years of age or older at the time of the offense.
Please see the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's website for a complete list of qualifying offenses.

What is a sexual predator?

Florida statutes recognize that some sexual offenders pose an extreme threat to public safety. These offenders include repeat sexual offenders, sexual offenders who use physical violence, and sexual offenders who prey on children. As such, the court makes a specific finding to classify these offenders as sexual predators. There are several ways a person can be qualified and designated as a sexual predator, including
  • being convicted of a sexually violent offense as defined in s. 775.21, Florida Statutes, (which may include offenses from another jurisdiction) and having a written court order designating the individual a sexual predator; or
  • being civilly committed under the Jimmy Ryce Act and having a written court order designating the individual as a sexual predator.

How many sexual offenders and predators live in Florida communities?

As of June 2021, there were 30,146 sexual offenders and predators living in Florida communities. 

Registered Sex Offenders and Predators Living in Florida Communities
Designation Number
Sexual Offenders 26,204
Sexual Predators   3,942
Total 30,146
Source: OPPAGA analysis of FDLE Sexual Offender/Predator Registry, June 2021.

 

How does the law regulate sexual offenders and predators living in Florida communities?

Sexual offenders and predators living in Florida communities are subject to many requirements and constraints.

Registration. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) maintains the Sexual Offender/Predator Registry, a statewide searchable system for collecting and disseminating information to both the public and law enforcement agencies. With few exceptions, all qualifying sexual offenders and predators must maintain registration with FDLE for the duration of their lives. These persons must register in-person with the sheriff in the county where they live within 48 hours of establishing a residence or experiencing any change in information required to be provided pursuant to statute. Sexual offenders must re-register at their county sheriff's office either two or four times a year depending on their offense. Sexual predators, some sexual offenders, and juvenile sexual offenders must report four times a year.

Information available to the public includes the offender's address, photo, a physical description including any tattoos, a description and tag number for all vehicles registered to the offender, as well as the date and type of sex offense.  Additional information available to law enforcement includes work address, home or cellular telephone number, and a description and tag number of any vehicles registered to individuals who reside with the offender, as well as any email or internet identifiers.

Identification. Sexual offenders and predators must update their Florida driver license or identification card within 48 hours after any change to their name or address. These cards have color markings on the front that identify the individual as a sexual offender-'943.0435, F.S.' or sexual predator-'SEXUAL PREDATOR'.

Notification. Sexual offenders and predators are required to report to law enforcement officials when they are enrolled, employed, or volunteer at an institution of higher education.  This information is both shared with the institution and posted to the Sex Offender/Predator Registry. Additionally, sexual predators are subject to community notification including, notice to licensed child care facilities and schools within a 1-mile radius of the predator's residence.

Residency Restrictions. Sexual offenders and predators convicted of specified offenses in which the victim was less than 16 years of age may not reside within 1,000 feet of any school, child care facility, park, or playground. However, local governments can impose municipal or county ordinances that further prohibit where some or all sexual offenders can live. As of March 2021, there were 190 such ordinances in 51 Florida counties.

Address Verification. Sexual offenders and predators are subject to address verification that, at a minimum, includes regular face-to-face contact between a law enforcement official and the offender/predator. Most sheriffs' offices conduct at least one, in-person address verification at an offender's residence per year, with many sheriffs conducting three or more per year for predators. The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) is responsible for verifying the addresses of offenders and predators under its supervision.

Supervision. Some sex offenders and predators are supervised in the community by the FDC. Most of these offenders are subject to high levels of supervision by specialized probation officers. Some are also subject to statutorily defined conditions including a mandatory curfew and submitting to a warrantless search of their person, residence, or vehicle. Further, some are subject to electronic monitoring. As of June 2021, the FDC supervised 5,951 persons registered as a sexual offender or sexual predator.

What is the Sexually Violent Predator Program?

In addition to the sexual offender and sexual predator categories that are defined by criminal law, there is a third category defined by civil law—the sexually violent predator.

The Jimmy Ryce Involuntary Civil Commitment for Sexually Violent Predators' Treatment and Care Act, Ch. 394 Part V, Florida Statutes, provides for the civil confinement of a group of sexual offenders who, due to their criminal history and the presence of mental abnormality, are found likely to engage in future acts of sexual violence if they are not confined in a secure facility for long-term control, care, and treatment. The Florida Legislature enacted this law in 1998 to protect the public by keeping those sexual predators from reentering society until they have been judged fit for release from custody.

The act creates a civil commitment process for sexually violent predators after they have served their criminal sentence or term of confinement. The commitment process involves four stages.

  • Referral. The Department of Corrections and other referral agencies including the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Children and Families' Adult Forensic Mental Health Program, state attorneys, and local jails identify offenders that have been convicted of specified sexually violent offenses and notify the Department of Children and Families' Sexually Violent Predator Program (SVP) and the appropriate state attorney.
  • Screening and Assessment. A Department of Children and Families (DCF) SVP staff clinical specialist reviews the information provided by the referring agency and gathers additional information as needed to complete the case file. The file is screened independently by two in-house licensed psychologists to determine if the offender meets the statutory sexually violent predator criteria. Offenders who are deemed to meet the criteria are examined by at least one independent, contracted evaluator who provides a recommendation to the department.
  • Team Recommendation. A DCF multidisciplinary team reviews the evaluative reports to determine whether the offender meets the sexually violent predator criteria, and notifies the state attorney and the referring agency of its recommendation.
  • Judicial Process. The state attorney determines whether to initiate legal action for commitment. If so, the state attorney files a probable cause petition seeking a determination that the offender meets statutory criteria to be a sexually violent predator. A civil commitment trial is then held. If the judge or jury finds the offender to be a sexually violent predator, the judge commits him to the custody of the Department of Children and Families upon completion of his criminal sentence.

If the commitment process is not completed prior to the end of an offender's prison sentence, he is detained by court order and transferred to the Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC) to await the outcome of commitment proceedings.

The Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC) is an accredited 720-bed, highly secure, therapeutic facility in Arcadia, Florida, that was specifically designed and constructed to house the Sexually Violent Predator Program. Only offenders detained or committed under the Jimmy Ryce Act are housed at this facility. FCCC is operated by Wellpath Recovery Solutions, which provides all treatment and rehabilitative services.

Since the program's inception, over 80,300 offenders have been referred to the program for screening and assessment. The DCF multidisciplinary team has recommended 1,955 of these offenders for commitment. As of April 2021, the commitment center housed 546 individuals: 408 civilly committed predators, 137 detainees awaiting completion of commitment procedures, and 1 non-committed offender who remained in custody under a court-ordered stipulated agreement.

The Sexually Violent Predator treatment program consists of four levels of cognitive behavior modification. Staff annually assesses the treatment progress of committed residents. Persons committed to the state under the Jimmy Ryce Act are detained until the court determines that they are no longer a threat to public safety. As of April 2021, 338 offenders have been released following a court finding that they no longer met the criteria to be a sexually violent predator. Of this number, 72 had reached level four, the program's most advanced level of treatment.

How are these activities funded?

For Fiscal Year 2020-21, the Legislature appropriated 
  • $33,556,775 to the Department of Children and Families, Sexual Predator Program, of which $2,403,724 funds salaries, expenses, and other operational costs, and the remaining $31,153,051 funds assessments, bond payments, and the Florida Civil Commitment Center; and
  • $2,436,821 and 47 full-time equivalent positions to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Sex Offender and Predator Registry. Twenty-two of these positions also support the Missing Persons Clearinghouse and Career Offender registration and enforcement activities.

Updates

2021 Legislative Changes. The Florida Legislature enacted Chapter 2021-139, Laws of Florida, which altered time-sharing requirements with a minor child. Previously, there was no blanket provision prohibiting a person who has committed a sexual crime from exercising time-sharing with their minor child. Further, the law presumed that parental responsibility should be shared by both parents, unless the court found it would be detrimental to the child. Although the court was required to acknowledge in writing when it considers evidence of sexual violence in evaluating the best interests of the child, it was possible to have been convicted of a sexual crime and be entitled to time-sharing with a minor child. This law change created a rebuttable presumption against parental responsibility and time sharing for parents who are convicted, or have had adjudication withheld, for specified sexual offenses, if at the time of the offense

  • the parent was 18 years of age or older; and
  • the victim was under 18 or the parent believed the victim to be under 18 years of age.

However, the presumption against parental time-sharing may be rebutted if the court makes a specific finding that the parent poses no significant risk of harm to the child and that time-sharing is in the best in interest of the child.

2020 Legislative Changes. Chapter 2020-81, Laws of Floridacreates an exception to statute of limitation provisions for specified sexual battery offenses committed against minor victims. Titled Donna’s Law, the act stipulates that prosecution of sexual batteries may be commenced at any time, as long as the victim was younger than 18 years of age at the time the offense occurred. The bill applies to offenses committed on or after July 1, 2020.

The 2020 Legislature also passed Chapter 2020-84, Laws of Florida, which expedites the arrest process for indecent exposure and increases the penalty for a second or subsequent offense. Among the bill’s provisions, it allows an officer to conduct a warrantless arrest if the officer reasonably believes the person has committed indecent exposure. The bill makes a second or subsequent indecent exposure offense a third degree felony. The bill also clarifies that exposing of sexual organs by a mother breastfeeding her baby, or a person who is merely naked at a place provided or set apart for that purpose is lawful, and not a violation of Florida's indecent exposure statute

 

Where can I find related OPPAGA reports?

Sex Offender Registration and Monitoring Triennial Review - 2018, Report 18-08, December 2018
Placement Challenges Persist for Child Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation; Questions Regarding Effective Interventions and Outcomes Remain, Report 16-04, July 2016

Where can I get more information?

Other Reports
Examine Florida's 'Romeo and Juliet' Law, Florida Senate, Issue Brief 2012-214, September 2011.
The Auditor General reports on law enforcement operations are available on its website.

Websites of Interest
Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Sexual Offenders and Predators, Frequently Asked Questions
Office of Economic and Demographic Research, Criminal Justice Reports List
U.S. Department of Justice, Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website
Center for Sex Offender Management

Performance Information
Performance measures and standards for the Department of Children and Families may be found in its Long Range Program Plan and Performance Dashboard that reports the department's performance on external and internal measures for its various programs.  The dashboard allows the user to view performance at both a statewide and geographic region level.

Performance measures and standards for the Department of Law Enforcement may be found in its Long Range Program Plan.

What are the applicable statutes?

  • Sections 775.215775.24, 943.0435, 943.04354, 944.606, and 944.607, Florida Statutes, pertain to sexual offenders.
  • Section 775.21, Florida Statutes, creates the Sexual Predators Act.  
  • Chapter 394 Part V, Florida Statutes, constitutes the Involuntary Civil Commitment for Sexually Violent Predators' Treatment and Care (Jimmy Ryce) Act.
  • Section 322.141, Florida Statutes, pertains to the color markings of licenses or identification cards identifying sexual offenders and predators.
  • Sections 947.1405, 948.063, 948.11, 948.12, 948.30, Florida Statutes, pertain to the supervision of sexual offenders in the community.

Whom do I contact for help?

Department of Children and Families, Kristin Kanner, Director of the Sexually Violent Predator Program, 850-228-1317

Website

Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Sex Offender Hotline, 1-888-357-7332

Website