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Florida Faces Challenges on Sex Offender Registry

Sex Offenders Registry
Jennie McKeon
WUWF Public Media

Florida is facing two constitutional challenges from men who live in other states and contend they have been improperly kept on public sex-offender registry lists in Florida.

Oregon resident Moji Momeni filed a lawsuit Friday in Leon County circuit court alleging that his constitutional privacy and due-process rights have been violated because Florida continues to list him as a registered sex offender, though he stopped being required to register in Oregon last year.

Momeni, who was convicted in 2006 on sexual abuse charges in Oregon, had to register in Florida because he lived in the state from 2012 to 2019.

Meanwhile, Leon County Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey is scheduled to hold a hearing next month in a constitutional challenge filed by a Pennsylvania resident, identified in court documents as John Doe, who had to register in Florida in 2015 because of a 10-day family vacation to Disney World.

The man, who pleaded no contest in 2002 to child pornography charges, was released from Pennsylvania’s sex-offender registry in 2016 but has remained on the Florida registry. Like Momeni, he contends in a lawsuit filed last year that his privacy and due-process rights have been violated.

The cases center on a Florida law that requires sex offenders to register in the state and leads to information, including their pictures and names, being posted on a publicly accessible Florida Department of Law Enforcement website.

In both situations, the men say they should not be kept on the Florida registry when they have been removed from the registries where they live --- and where the crimes occurred. In part, their attorneys point to a privacy clause in the Florida Constitution.

“(Repeated) publication of the plaintiff’s (Momeni’s) stale identifying information, given the fleeting nature of his prior contact with the state, serves no conceivably legitimate interest of the state while subjecting him and his family to a panoply of the kind of harms (the privacy clause) is intended to prevent,” Momeni’s attorney, Michael Ufferman, wrote in the lawsuit filed Friday.

It remains too early for the state to file arguments in the Momeni case, but it is asking Dempsey to dismiss the case filed by the Pennsylvania man, whose 10-day visit to Disney World triggered a definition of a “temporary” Florida resident.

“Plaintiff (John Doe) was required to register here because his Disney trip qualified him as a “temporary resident’ of Florida and his Pennsylvania crime of conviction was similar to (a Florida law), which makes the transmission of child pornography by electronic device or equipment a third-degree felony,” an April motion to dismiss the case said. “Under (Florida’s sex-offender registry law), the plaintiff is subject to lifetime registration in Florida.”

Also, the state contends that a key issue is the man’s conviction, not his release from the Pennsylvania registry.

“(The Florida registry law) provides that a sexual offender who was designated a sexual offender in another state may be removed from the Florida registry if he establishes that his out-of-state designation has been removed by court order or by operation of law,” Senior Assistant Attorney General William Stafford wrote in the motion to dismiss. “However, this provision does not apply where the offender still meets the criteria for registration in Florida. Because plaintiff’s Florida registration was based on his Pennsylvania conviction, rather than on his designation as a sexual offender in that state, he continued to meet the criteria for registration, and could not, by law, be removed from Florida’s registry.”

Dempsey is scheduled to consider the motion to dismiss during an Oct. 28 hearing.

Jim Saunders - News Service of Florida