Florida: Significant ex post facto victory in Ft. Lauderdale case

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By Robin . . . In a significant victory for registered citizens in Florida who have been hounded by the ever-increasing reach of residency restrictions enacted by local ordinances, Judge Mindy Solomon of Broward County has held Section 16-127 of the Fort Lauderdale Code of Ordinances unconstitutional both as applied and on its face. The effect of this ruling is to roll back an enhanced residency restriction applied to registered citizens which was enacted in October, 2007, and that prohibited all persons ever convicted of enumerated child sex offenses from residing within 1,400 feet of various designated landmarks, including schools and school bus stops.

This action came before Judge Solomon by consolidation of two separate claims by Ira Anderson and Sean Ford who had both been charged with violations of the ordinance for residing within the 1,400 foot threshold. Upon review of the underlying facts, and in reliance upon the Mendoza factors utilized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Smith v. Doe, Judge Solomon concluded that while the city commissioners’ intent when passing the 2007 ordinance was “remedial, not punitive,” the defendants presented convincing arguments establishing that the effects of the ordinance were punitive “by the clearest proof.”

Citing three specific Mendoza factors in her Order, Judge Solomon held the ordinance unconstitutional for 1) its restraint on available and affordable housing (finding that less than 1% of such housing options were available to the defendants within the city of Fort Lauderdale), 2) its banishment of registered citizens on account of restraints on housing, and that there is 3) no rational basis for restricting registrants from residing at night within 1,400 feet of facilities that are only populated by children during a portion of daylight.

Strengthening the defendants’ claims was expert testimony provided by Prof. Kelly Socia and Prof. Jill Levenson. Prof. Socia, a geomapping expert, used census and mapping data to demonstrate the ordinance’s severe impact on available housing within the city of Fort Lauderdale. Prof. Levenson testified that “residence restrictions do not reduce the risk of sexual reoffense, because proximity to schools is not a risk factor in sexual reoffense.”

NARSOL gives thanks to Florida Action Committee (FAC) for first publishing this important news.

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