Friday, April 12, 2013

Warning--Sexual Predator Lives Here

The second week of April, 2013, a picture appeared in varying media outlets—mainstream papers, blogs, news broadcasts, and, of course, Facebook. It came from Florida and depicts a smiling  man clad in typical sheriff’s dress, lawman’s star proudly visible on his chest. He holds a posthole digger in one hand and stands beside a large red sign planted firmly in the ground.
The white letters on the sign proclaim that pursuant to Florida Statute 775.21, a sexual predator, who is named, lives here.

According to the articles, Sheriff Gordon Smith of Bradford County, Florida, is causing 18 of these signs, differing only by the individual’s name thereon, to be erected in front of the homes of Bradford County’s 18 registered sexual predators. Based on the pictures, one would assume that Sheriff Smith will dig every hole and plant every sign himself. However, Fox News 30, WAWS reports, “They'll use inmate labor to post them this week, making the burden on the taxpayer minimal.” 

This blog does not have enough space to contain all that should be written about this, so I will focus on a few legal questions.

In FS 775.21, named “The Florida Sexual Predators Act,” is an attempt, but not a very good one, to distinguish between a sexual predator and an ordinary, garden variety sexual offender: “Repeat sexual offenders, sexual offenders who use physical violence, and sexual offenders who prey on children are sexual predators who present an extreme threat to the public safety. Sexual offenders are extremely likely to use physical violence and to repeat their offenses, and most sexual offenders commit many offenses, have many more victims than are ever reported, and are prosecuted for only a fraction of their crimes.” Does the second sentence still mean predators, or is it, misinformation aside, a statement, as it says, about sex offenders in general? 

The sheriff’s department and his supporters make much of the fact that a clear line is being drawn between sex offenders and predators for the purposes of these signs, yet the ordinance being used to justify the signs is vague in making that distinction. In an attempt to clarify, Fox News printed, “The difference is that a predator is either a repeat offender and/or their crimes are violent with a victim under 12.”

But that is not what the ordinance says. The ordinance says, as given above, the predator designation is assigned to those who 1) are repeat offenders  2) use physical violence  3) prey on children, and, in regard to the last element, a few lines down is this clarification: “…where the victim is a minor…” In Florida a minor is anyone under the age of 18. Nowhere is the age 12—or any age—given as a requirement for the classification.

There is nothing in the ordinance that requires all three elements, or any two elements, to be present, as Fox News has indicated with saying their crimes are violent with a child victim. A repeat offender could be someone who has run naked around the town square three separate times. A person who had a victim under the age of 18 could be the 20-year-old boyfriend of a 17-year-old consensual partner. Are such people designated as predators in Florida? In Bradford County? I don’t know. But using Florida Statute 775.21, they could be. Will they wake up one morning and find bright red signs outside their front doors?

An additional legal issue is the need for this in-your face action. The legal authority, again from FS 775.21, is the directive to provide “…for community and public notification concerning the presence of sexual predators,” and “…upon the court’s written finding that an offender is a sexual predator, in order to protect the public, it is necessary that the sexual predator be registered with the department and that members of the community and the public be notified of the sexual predator’s presence.”

The same Fox News item reports, “Florida law states, as Sheriff, he can notify his community about sexual predators any way he sees fit.” I’m not sure that it does. Any way he sees fit might include branding the letters “SP” with a red-hot poker on the faces of those defined as predators.

The more important issue is the necessity of the signs as means of public notification. The Fox article states, “To alleviate any confusion parents might have about where sexual predators live, he's posting big red signs, bearing the predator's [sic] names, in front of their homes,” and, “He [Sheriff Smith] said parents kept calling with concerns.”

However, the registrants in question are already on a public database, easily located by concerned parents. Furthermore, in a response on a blog called “The Right Sphere,” a citizen of the community wrote, “Thing is, all the neighbors already knew because by law, a sexual predator has to tell all of his neighbors, and the officers will also inform the area to be doubly sure. So the sign only serves to make the knowledge known to visitors.”

To visitors? To people driving through Bradford County on their way elsewhere? To people visiting the designated predators? If they know them well enough to visit, surely they know their status. To people visiting the neighbors of the designated predators? They would surely share such knowledge with friends and family dropping in.

Then why does Sheriff Gordon Smith feel this is a job that he needs to undertake? I wonder if the answer does not lie in these words of the Sheriff in his interview with Fox 30 news: “And if the predators have a problem with it, he said, ‘If they don't like it, they got an option. Leave!’ "


Coursey, Leslie. "No more hiding out for sex predators in Bradford County." 
         (4/8/13) 30 WAWS.

Tommy. "Check Out How This Sheriff Informs Public of Area Sex Offenders." 
         (4/10/13) The Right Sphere.


  1. Such a sad situation in Florida and all across the US. Predator panic has taken over common-sense.

    1. You must be a predator must not have children or any family to worry about domyhing happening to them. Look up the word predator. They can live with you.


    So apparently Kansas had struck this laws down in the past.

    And the sheriff's office sure spends a lot of time defending themselves on social media. i have a feeling they know they are in hot water the instant someone decides to sue.

  3. 'OnceFallen' . . . I concur,. The feeling is there that the sheriff's dept very much is aware that they are treading on very thin "legal" ice in the course of their sanctioned vigilantism in Bradford county, Fl. This arrogant, jerk-water cop needs some serious attitude adjustment.. The kind that usually comes from a well-crafted civil lawsuit seeking large damages. The lawsuit probably wouldn't even have to necessarily win to make mountains of trouble for him and his good 'ole boy deputy dogs. But of course a win, and a huge one would be the preferable outcome.

  4. If people don't want to be labeled a predator...don't do the crime. SEE HOW SIMPLE IT IS.

  5. When injustice becomes law resistance is duty! A quote from Thomas. JEFFERSON.Fight back. Don't lay down and accept their unconstitutional laws. What people don't realize is 80% of the population has done something in their lives that could have got them on this punitive unconstitutional list. Punishment is supposed to be issued at sentencing. Not from public figures looking for votes.

  6. So, does that mean that the 18 year old boy who gets arrested because his girlfriend is 17 ( a minor ) deserves one of these signs on their lawn ?

  7. What about the ones that get falsely accused.

  8. Concern and even anger is understandable and even justifiable against any criminal behavior. However, at some point in time, society needs to see that an offender who has lived 15, 20, 30 years after the offense, crime-free, as a model citizen, really does deserve to be restored to regular citizen status, free from continuing government attack by politicians passing laws to secure votes, while accomplishing nothing that improves public safety.

    Truth is, there are bad people who we should treat accordingly, but there are also good people that have done a bad thing. The difference is that the bad ones will continue their lives of crime, while the good people will have learned their 'lessons' and will never re-offend. They ought to be able to contribute to making a better society.

    It is shameful that our elected officials have chosen to ignore the difference and treat everyone as if they were the worst person on earth. Perhaps those officials simply aren't qualified to make these judgements?

    We seriously need a pathway to redemption for all criminals based on time and merit.

  9. I was surprised when I got arrested,my next door neighbor reported that I touched her 3 year old son,which I didn't ,the case went on and my name was on the child molesters list which cost me my job and my happiness,till are husband came back from deployment and cleared it that the wife just doesn't like me,after that I wish my mugshot and name could be removed from those site which proved abortive till I was introduced to a group of ethical elite hacker who got my name and mugshot removed from wherever they appear and also got my records delected from the data base,I couldn't bear it, you can try out they garantee a good job and 100% money back .


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