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House Panel Advances Multiple Bills Aimed At Sex Predators

Florida Channel
House Criminal Justice Subcommittee chairman Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) explaining one of the sex predator bills proposed by his committee.

A huge goal of Florida lawmakers this year is to crack down on sexual predators who prey on children and the disabled. Acouple of Senate panels earlier this week passed several measures, and one House committee took up another slew of bills aimed at clearing up loopholes in Florida’s current law and increase penalties in other areas for certain sex offenses.

Out of the 11 bills on the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee’s Thursday agenda, eight dealt with strengthening laws against sexually violent predators. One included toughening penalties for repeat flashers and also allows law enforcement to arrest them without a warrant, in certain situations. Another gets rid of the statute of limitations for those who committed certain sex offenses against a person under 17-years-old. There’s also another measure authored by Plantation Democratic Representative Katie Edwards.

“The strike-all that we’re proposing prohibits these probationers from viewing, possessing, or owning any sexually stimulating material, regardless of whether it relates to the offenders’ deviant behavior. The bill continues, however, to allow these probationers to view, possess, or own any sexually stimulating material, if doing so is part of the offenders ‘Sex Offender Treatment Program,’” said Edwards.

The Subcommittee also advanced several other proposals that came directly from the panel, including a bill spearheaded by chairman Matt Gaetz. It’s a wide-ranging proposal that deals with sex predator sentencing. Gaetz says predators or offenders who commit crimes against victims between the ages of 12 and 17 could face life in prison.

“The bill will also increase mandatory minimum sentences for dangerous sexual felony offenders to a mandatory minimum of 50 years for those who rape or torture children, the disabled, and seniors,” said Gaetz.

But, Orlando Democratic Representative Randolph Bracy, who says he likes most of the bill, took issue with that particular part.

“Just as a personal thing, I’ve been against mandatory minimums, and I believe the judge should have the discretion to make the appropriate sentence,” said Bracy.

The committee also considered bills notifying communities of sexual predators in the state and enhancing what’s called the civil commitment process for offenders who are deemed sexually violent. A group of Senators passed similar versions of most of the legislation earlier in the week.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.