The coronavirus pandemic has shifted how almost all institutions operate, including businesses across all industries and government agencies. Even non-essential law enforcement services have changed to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout the United States. However, when it comes to registering as a sex offender, alleged offenders are met with all kinds of directions. Many people who must register as a sex offender must register in person, but there is no standard process for doing so. Registration varies state by state, and in Florida, the process is different from county to county.
If you must register as a sex offender in Palm Beach County, speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney like Brian P. Gabriel to learn the most up-to-date information to fulfill your obligation. Attorney Brian Gabriel may also help you appeal your conviction and strategize ways to improve your future outlook.
What are Sex Offender Registry Procedures in Florida?
Across the Sunshine State, most businesses and courts shut down during the pandemic, and many are still closed or reducing their services as the state reopens. A survey of 182 agencies in the U.S. revealed that just 12 suspended all sex offender registration, while 44 were completing registration online or over the phone. The rest were still requiring sex offenders to register in-person at their local police station, sheriff’s office, or other institution.
The survey revealed just how confusing requirements can be for sex offenders. Some states require registration with the state police office, while others require offenders to register at the sheriff’s office or local police station. Some sex offenders must register at more than one agency.
In Palm Beach County, criminal registration continues to be conducted over the phone, but sex offense registration must be completed in person. In Broward County, the courthouse is closed to the public. Sex offenders must instead register with the probation office in a nearby building. Hernando County has suspended all fingerprinting services except those required for sex offender registration.
How Requiring Sex Offender Registration Puts Society at Risk
Overall, a majority of sex offenders must register in-person at busy police stations or courthouses. Several police agencies have placed barriers in their offices and require offenders to make appointments to register to limit the number of people at each station. However, these practices still put the health of registrants and their families, agency employees, police officers, and the public at risk of contracting COVID-19.
About one-fifth of registrants are also 55 or older — the age group at the highest risk of complications from the coronavirus. Many have families, which puts more people at risk of further contracting and spreading COVID-19.
Do Sex Offender Registries Keep People Safe?
Sex offender registration laws came into existence in the 1990s. In 1994, 7-year-old Megan Kanka was sexually assaulted and killed by a twice-convicted sex offender who was recently released from prison, and who lived down the street from her family without their knowledge. “Megan’s Law” was enacted several months later to make information about convicted sex criminals known.
Currently, these laws require convicted sex offenders to provide their contact information and other identifying data to law enforcement authorities upon release. Sex offender notification laws require an offender’s registration and criminal history to be available to the public through searchable databases.
The goal of sex offender registration laws was originally to reduce the chance that sex offenders would reoffend and protect potential victims. Registration laws came about to enable more effective law enforcement supervision of previously-convicted offenders, who were assumed to be at considerable risk of reoffending. Notification laws passed with the goal of helping potential victims protect themselves.
But today, sex offender registries make it nearly impossible for offenders to reintegrate into society. Whether it’s restricting where they can live or work, these laws don’t prevent offenders from committing sex crimes. They might ward off would-be offenders and make them think twice about offending, but they do make it extremely challenging for released offenders to find housing and get jobs, even years after they’ve completed their sentences.
The intention of sex offender registries was supposed to be the greater protection of children against sexual predators by providing fewer opportunities for repeat offenders to hurt children. With fewer opportunities to reoffend, there were supposed to be fewer sex crimes against children. But there is currently no evidence that this has been accomplished. Instead, some advocates against sex offender registries see them as a “second punishment.”
Reliable Sex Crime Defense in West Palm Beach
You deserve competent legal counsel if you’re facing charges for a sex offense in West Palm Beach. Attorney Brian Gabriel understands what’s at stake when you are presented with these charges and will fight aggressively to protect your rights. At The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel, our firm has helped countless people facing criminal charges regain their lives after being arrested or targeted for investigation. Call 561-622-5575 or complete our contact form for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.