June 23, 2021 – Governor DeSantis today signed legislation by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation) closing a massive loophole in Florida’s sex offender law. Book filed SB 234 in response to an identified oversight in Florida law which has allowed sex offenders to avoid registration by failing to pay fines.
“Florida’s children and communities are safer because this new law closes a massive loophole which allowed sex offenders to avoid registration by failing to pay sentencing fines,” says Senator Book. “Despite a history of preying on young kids, at least one child predator was able to live freely and interact with unsuspecting children in person and online. Thanks to this new law, that loophole is officially closed!”
Two courts have ruled that due to a technicality in Florida sex offender law, a Tampa man who served prison time for molesting two young girls does not have to register as a sex offender until he pays a fine imposed as part of his sentence – a loophole which Book’s bill fixes.
Ray La Vel James of Tampa was sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine for molesting two young girls – ages 8 and 11 – at a community swimming pool. According to the Tampa Bay Times, James had a reputation for hanging around children, bringing toys to the pool, and inviting young girls to play with him.
“This man is the very definition of someone who should and must be on the sex offender registry and subject to things like community monitoring, and residency restrictions,” Book said while presenting the bill to the Senate. “But because of this legal loophole, he could live right next to a community pool if he so chose. Or a school – or a daycare. He could be chatting with children online and we would have no idea, because he is living his life freely, despite a history of preying on young kids.”
The new policy amends what has been widely recognized as a dangerous oversight conflicting with the spirit of the law. The measure — passed unanimously through the Senate and House — was supported by Attorney General Moody, State Attorneys, the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, and others.
The bill went into effect immediately.