ALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law Tuesday effectively closing a loophole in Florida’s sexual offense registration law.
The former law’s loophole allowed a person convicted of a sex crime to forgo registering 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 offense 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 offense registration, “to clarify release from conviction sanctions for sexual offense registration and reporting purposes. Currently, a person convicted of a qualifying sexual offense must register upon release from a court imposed sanction.”
The bill went into effect upon the governor’s signature.