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DeSantis signs bill closing Florida's sex-offender registration loophole

Posted at 9:52 AM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 09:52:26-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law Tuesday effectively closing a loophole in Florida’s sexual offender registration law.

The former law's loophole allowed a person convicted of a sex crime to forgo registering as a sex offender because they didn’t pay a court-ordered fine.

In 2020, a judge ruled that Ray La Vel James of Tampa, who spent 12 years in prison after being convicted of molesting two girls at a public pool, didn’t have to register as a sex offender because the law states registration isn’t required until a sentence is completed — and he hadn’t paid part of a $10,000 fine that was part of his sentence.

The victims in the case were aged 8 and 11.

"This man is the very definition of someone who should and must be on the sex offender registry and subject to things like community monitoring and residency restrictions, but because of this loophole, he could be living right next to a community pool,” said Democratic Sen. Lauren Book, the bill’s sponsor.

The bill amends s. 943.0435, F.S., relating to sexual offender registration, "to clarify release from conviction sanctions for sexual offender registration and reporting purposes. Currently, a person convicted of a qualifying sexual offense must register as a sexual offender upon release from a court imposed sanction."

The bill went into effect upon the governor's signature.