Local News

State toughens sexual predator laws

SEBRING - Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton said she's pleased with new legislation passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott that will toughen sexual predator laws.

One concern the legislation rectifies is regarding sexual predators who do not have a permanent address, she said.

The law will require that vehicle registration information be recorded and be accessible statewide by sheriff offices, she explained.

Another requirement is that transient sexual predators report every 30 days to the sheriff's office. Benton also said another important change involves the requirements regarding where sexual predators must register with a sheriff's office after being released from prison.

In the years past, she said, questions have risen as to which county or counties have the authority to charge a person with failure to register. Those include the county where the person was released from prison, the county where they end up in and the county where they said they intended to go after release, she said.

In some cases, that resulted in no county issuing a warrant, Benton said.

The change in the law allows more than one of those counties to issue a warrant for failure to register, she said.

Other laws passed regard civil commitment of sexual predators and multi-disciplinary teams to help determine whether someone should be committed civilly after they complete a criminal sentence.

The laws require that the state provide training to those teams so they can make recommendations whether a sexual predator fits the definition of a sexually violent predator.

A sexually violent predator would be sentenced to a minimum 50 years in prison if convicted of raping a child, a developmentally disabled person or an elderly person, the new law says.

The bill also authorizes a court to determine whether a sexual predator or a sexual offender needs sexual offender treatment.

Another bill requires that if a sexual predator files for a change of name then authorities must be notified.


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