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Orlando paper: 37-year-old man caught in bed with pregnant teen

Orlando news outlets are reporting that a Deltona man, 37, has been arrested and charged with sexual activity with a minor and a probation violation regarding sex offender registration. The man was in Volusia County jail this morning after law enforcement officers went to a house and found the man in bed with a pregnant 17-year-old. The man had been convicted of sexual battery in Duval County back in 1994. That conviction required him to notify local officials whenever he changed addresses; something authorities allege he failed to do in Volusia County. A relative of the teen apparently contacted officials to inform them that the man was living with the 17-year-old and that he’s the father of her unborn child. According to media reports, both the man and teen told officials he’s the father of her baby. She is six to seven months pregnant, according to reports. Deputies went to the house yesterday to interview the man, they said. Inside the residence they claim to have found pipes used to smoke marijuana and a grinder. However, the man is at this point not facing any paraphernalia-related charges. A relative of the teenager is also in jail, officials said. Her relationship to the teen was not disclosed, though she is charged with child neglect. She was also charged with child abuse, apparently because she allowed a 12-year-old boy to “spend the night” with the suspect, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel. The charges the man and woman face are all deserving of serious attention from an experienced criminal defense attorney. Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Sex offender living with pregnant teen arrested, deputies say,” Jerriann Sullivan, Oct. 17, 2013

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Orlando TV coverage of sex crime accusation found wanting

When an allegation of a sex crime has been made and a suspect has been arrested, Orlando TV stations will often give the arrest sensationalist coverage. A subsequent release of a suspect or an acquittal at trial is typically given far less coverage, if any at all. We were reminded of this pattern when Orange County deputies recently arrested a man and accused him of using his cellphone to surreptitiously take photos and videos up the dresses of girls at an electronics store last month. The man, 44 years old, was charged with two counts of video voyeurism after being arrested at his mother’s home just north of the Martin Andersen Beachline Expressway. After he was taken into custody at the house, police officers searched the property and said they found marijuana plants being grown there. The man was also charged with 20 counts of cultivation of cannabis, marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia possession. Police had been searching for the man after store surveillance video had been released to TV stations, with announcers asking viewers to call authorities if they recognized the man seen kneeling on the floor next to a girl. One announcer said the man had been caught making “sick” videos. At the time of the report, there was no information available to the TV station or the public about what the man might have had on his cellphone. After all, he had just been arrested. The phone had just been confiscated by officials. So the TV announcer assumed that because the man was arrested, he must be guilty. Determining guilt is the job of a court, of course, rather than announcers who can’t resist the temptation of working their assumptions and personal opinions into news coverage. This kind of coverage makes life much more difficult for those who are wrongly accused of sex crimes. Their names and images can be plastered all over TV stories, but reporters are often nowhere to be found after a suspect has been released for lack of evidence or when a court determines that the evidence is insufficient to convict a suspect of a crime. While a criminal defense attorney can’t stop TV stations from sensationalizing coverage, they can help a court assess the evidence in a clear, level manner, as intended, so that justice can prevail. Source: WOFL, “Arrest made in video voyeur investigation,” Oct. 8, 2013

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Backpages Continue to Lead To Prostitution Arrests

In 2010 this blog reported that Backages.com was becoming the new Craigslist.com when it came to “adult services” on the web.  Well two years later and it still looks like backpages.com has continued down this road.  The Sun-Sentinel is reporting that a landlord was suspicious of people coming to a tennant’s apartment.  Law enforcement was notified and discovered that the tennant was advertising hourly sessions for body rubs for $200/ hour which was later determined by the investigation to be more then a rub and sexual in nature. Additionaly it was reported that a Boyton Beach mother and daughter were advertising prostitution services on backpages.com.  The two have denied any wrong doing are state they were simply running a provacitive massage business out of their apartment. I would assume that there will come a time when law enforcement will begin targeting backpages for a criminal investigation much like they did with cragslist. Please remember that Florida law punishes those involved with prostitution related offenses.  This punishment may include jail, probation, and mandatory STD and HIV testing.

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Florida lawmakers to revisit sex crime laws next session

Florida is known for its tough sex offender registration and general sentencing laws. However, some Florida lawmakers do not believe that existing laws related to sex crimes are strict enough. As a result, many lawmakers are vowing to introduce bills during the next legislative session designed to punish convicted offenders more severely. In particular, some state legislators are concerned that the rate of recidivism among sex offenders in Florida is far too high. They believe that punishing convicted offenders by locking them away for a longer time will reduce the rate of repeat offenses. One representative recently explained his motivation for such action in noting that, “We have to make sure we do all we can to make sure the laws in the state of Florida are going to be astringent and tough as possible to deter these types of criminal elements.” However, numerous studies confirm that lengthy terms of incarceration are not as effective in reducing rates of recidivism as alternatives are. As we have previously mentioned, granting offenders access to adequate psychological treatment, transition assistance and alternative accountability measures is often a far more successful approach to reducing recidivism than longer incarceration periods are. This is especially true when it comes to holding low-level offenders accountable for their actions. Locking low-level offenders up for longer periods of time will cost Florida taxpayers a staggering amount of money and is not likely to greatly reduce rates of recidivism in the Sunshine State. Before lawmakers introduce bills to toughen sex crimes law, perhaps they should consider more effective alternatives to this approach for the benefit of all Floridians. Source: WTXL, “Lawmakers look to toughen up sex offender laws next yr.” Aug. 26, 2013

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Plea deal develops in Florida ‘Juliet and Juliet’ teen sex case

A recent high-profile case in Florida is illustrating just how complex teenage romance can become when young people decide to become physically intimate with each other. The defendant in this high-profile case has received a great deal of support from around the nation for one interesting reason. She is an 18-year-old charged with sex crimes related to an intimate relationship she had with a 14-year-old girl. Some are painting the case as a lesbian “Juliet and Juliet” scenario, given that the case has escalated in part due to the objections that the 14-year-old’s parents have vocalized in regards to the girls’ relationship. The defendant has insisted that the sex she had with her girlfriend was consensual. However, when statutory rape laws define sex with a minor of a certain age and an individual aged 18 or older as rape, it does not matter if the sex was consensual and it does not matter what gender the parties are. It is important that Florida teens learn from the hard legal realities being exposed in this case. No matter how much the public may rally around young love, sex crime laws are often harsh when applied to well-meaning teens. In the Juliet and Juliet case, the defendant is being offered a plea deal that would not include sex offender registration requirements or jail time. The defendant in this case must now decide whether to accept or reject her plea deal. However, many teens caught in the same scenario are not offered such opportunities. They are often branded as sex offenders for life. Source: New York Daily News, “Florida teen offered new plea deal over same-sex relationship with underage girlfriend,” Aug. 15, 2013

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Orlando Police arrest 7 people during prostitution sting

Accusations of committing a sex crime always carries a serious social stigma — no matter whether or not a person is convicted. Protecting reputations is one of the reasons why it can be beneficial to pursue a strong criminal defense. Not long ago, police busted six women and one man for prostitution near Orlando’s South Blossom Trail. Reports indicate that authorities turned to the area to conduct a sting operation, since it apparently has a reputation for prositution. All seven arrests took place at various times over the course of one night as part of a law enforcement “sweep.” Law enforcement officials indicate that most of those arrested already have a record of solicitation. Furthermore, three of the individuals have been identified as homeless. This shows that a number of the individuals might be under significant financial stress. As a result, they may be resorting to prostitution as a source of income, something they might not do if their situation was different. When handling criminal defense for prostitution charges, it may be important to look at all circumstances surrounding the incident. Building a comprehensive case could help at all stages of the criminal process — including the trial and sentencing. Having prostitution on a criminal record can be damaging when seeking future employment. As such, working with an experienced attorney can help mitigate the short- and long-term consequences of being arrested during a prostitution sting. As Orlando Police continue to pursue prostitution charges aggressively through stings and other means, it will be important for those caught up in accusations to understand their legal rights. Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Prostitution sting on OBT snares 6 women, 1 man,” Desiree Stennett, July 13, 2013

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Protecting inmates from rape is a critical priority

In 2003, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Last year, the Justice Department finally released a list of prevention measures that prisons and jails receiving federal money must follow as a measure of enforcing this law. In essence, the 2003 law both insists on a zero tolerance policy with regards to inmate rape and on the implementation of Justice Department rape prevention mandates. Unfortunately, when individuals are compelled to mount a criminal defense and are sentenced to imprisonment, they remain at a high risk of experiencing sexual assault or rape while imprisoned. According to a newly released federal report authored by experts at the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the majority of incarceration facilities affected by the 2003 law have yet to comply with either of its two important mandates. Specifically, the new report reveals that more than three percent of jail inmates and at least four percent of prison inmates were victims of sexual abuse in 2012 alone. Roughly translated, these percentages represent more than 80,000 Americans. In addition, it is quite possible that due to fear or the stigma associated with reporting that these statistics do not accurately depict the scope of this issue. It is time that federal regulators enforced the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act with regards both to its zero-tolerance policies and prevention mandates. Particularly vulnerable populations including the mentally ill and LGBT inmates are most in need of protection, but all inmates are entitled to safety behind bars. Serving time for committing a crime does not mean that inmates should be subjected to abuse, period. Source: New York Times, “Rape Behind Bars,” May 25, 2013

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Does forcing teens onto sex offender registries benefit society?

The criminal justice system generally seeks to balance the safety of the public with the rights of those who have been accused or convicted of criminal activity. When individuals are convicted of sex crimes, many are compelled to register with state and federal officials in the name of public safety. These offenders have their names, residences, personal information and even photos routinely posted on the Internet. These registries are meant to inform the public. But do the practical costs of registration outweigh the benefits? Recent studies suggest that at least with regards to teen offenders, the answer to this question may be yes. Teens are often charged with relatively minor sexual offenses. Many are convicted of illegal sexual activity after engaging in consensual acts with teens near to them in age. However, they are often forced onto registries and the consequences can be catastrophic. Depending on how much of their personal information is aired, former teen offenders may be subjected to repeated harassment, discrimination and even homelessness as a result of their presence on these registries. When they age and commit to family life, they may be prohibited from playing with their own children at parks or attending any events at their schools. Certainly, the public has a vested interest in remaining safe from harm. However, many former teen offenders branded after relatively minor and even consensual sexual acts are punished for life as a result of registration requirements. If they are deemed to pose no likely future threat to public safety, perhaps it has become time to take these former teen offenders off these lists. Source: CNN, “Report: Registry does more harm than good for teen sex offenders,” Emanuella Grinberg, May 1, 2013

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Federal sex crime registration law needs to be modified: Part II

Earlier this week, we began discussing federal oversight of sex offender registration and reporting. Generally, individuals convicted of certain sex crimes are required to tell state officials where they are residing and working. A change in address must be reported to the state. However, some offenders required to register fail to do so when they move to a new state. The federal government has stepped in to better ensure that offender reporting is treated consistently across all fifty states. In doing so however, the federal government seems to have trampled on states’ rights and on the personal freedoms of offenders nationwide. The 2006 Adam Walsh Act required the 50 states to adopt and maintain their share of a national, uniform sex offender registry. The registry was designed to ensure consistency in reporting. However, the cost of complying with this legislation has proven prohibitive for many cash-strapped states. In addition, many state legislatures have expressed concern that the registry is too broad and overreaching, given that it requires states to track all convicted offenders, regardless of whether or not their crimes were legally serious in nature. As a result of cost concerns and ethical objections, only 16 states are currently in full compliance with the Adam Walsh Act. The federal government has an unquestionable interest in interstate matters. However, it seems to have stepped too far in mandating the uniform national sex offender registry. For the benefit of states’ rights and respect for personal freedom, the mandates in this act should be reexamined. Source: Courier of Montgomery County, “Modify federal sex offender registry law to give states more flexibility,” Nov. 27, 2012

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Federal sex crime registration law needs to be modified: Part I

The federal government has a vested interest in activities that involve the crossing of state lines. For while states can govern a great deal of daily life within their own borders, when individuals and commerce cross state lines, inconsistencies in policies and procedures can lead to inconsistent and other various unintentionally negative consequences. Thus, the federal government tends to step in and regulate movement of people, goods and services involving travel over state lines. Unfortunately, certain interstate regulations can be heavy-handed and overly broad. Though the intentions of many interstate regulations are well-meaning, they can stifle states’ rights, trade and individual freedoms in some circumstances. For example, individuals who are convicted of certain sex crimes are often required to report their whereabouts and personal information to their residential state’s sex offender registry. When these individuals move across state lines, the federal government seeks to hold them accountable for re-registering in their new residential state. Absence of federal oversight on this issue might lead to inconsistent treatment of sex offender reporting, so it is understandable that the federal government retains some oversight on this issue. However, many insist that the federal government has recently gone too far in its efforts to regulate interstate residential transfer and travel of sex offenders. Essentially, federal oversight of this issue has tied states’ hands in requiring them to so strictly monitor sex offenders within their states that their resources are stretched impossibly thin and the personal freedoms of sex offenders are being trampled. Please check back in later this week as we continue our discussion of this important issue. Source: Courier of Montgomery County, “Modify federal sex offender registry law to give states more flexibility,” Nov. 27, 2012

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