It is certainly not a popular thing to say that the Florida sexual molestation crimes are too severe. However, there is a certain category of sex offender cases that result from overzealous and misguided prosecutions. Consider a situation where an eighteen year old kid, considered an adult under the law, is dating a girl in his school. Maybe they have a class or two together and eat lunch together. They have an open relationship at school and go to the prom together. And then they break up, the girl’s parents get mad, the boy gets arrested and charged with a serious felony sex offense, becomes a convicted felon and has to report as a sex offender for the rest of his life and live by the very strict sex offender rules.
This has happened in two cases we are aware of. In both cases, the boy and girl were high school students going to the same school. They saw each other in class, in the hallways, at lunch and at school functions. They started relationships openly at school, and none of the teachers, the principal nor any other school personnel had any issue with it. However, both relationships ended, as high school relationships typically do, and someone got the police involved after the fact. The police, and then the state, using poor judgment, decided to arrest the boys for lewd and lascivious molestation based on these open high school relationships. The problem was that in both cases, the boys had just turned 18 years old and were about three and a half years older than their younger, high school girlfriends. In both cases, the boys decided to plead guilty to the lewd and lascivious molestation charges because they got an offer of probation that sounded pretty good when they considered that they faced serious prison time if they went to trial and were found guilty.
However, the problem was that both kids were considered to be sex offenders which meant they had to report as sex offenders every year for the rest of their lives. They also had to comply with very strict requirements that are put in place to supervise real sex offenders.
In both cases, the defendants came to us well after their cases were finished to see if there was anything we could do to get them off of the sex offender list. In both cases, the boys had graduated high school and gone on to have wives and children. However, they and their families were constantly being harassed due to their very public status as sex offenders. They were adults that had difficult times keeping jobs and owning homes in nice neighborhoods.
Fortunately, Florida enacted a law in 2007 to address this situation where young kids in normal high school relationships get permanently thrown into the mix with the kind of real sex offenders the sex offender laws were designed to address. This law is called the Romeo & Juliet law. It says that a person can be considered for removal from the sex offender list under certain circumstances. The person must not have any other sex offense cases on his/her record or anything else causing him/her to register as a sex offender, the age difference in the relationship must not have been more than four years and the younger person must have been at least fourteen years old at the time of the alleged lewd and lascivious act.
This Romeo and Juliet law does not cover a lot of sex offender situations. It clearly was not passed to give relief to people who were adults and were convicted of engaging in illegal sexual conduct with children. However, it does provide some sanity to situations where two high school kids get into a relationship and the older one gets arrested and labeled a sex offender for his/her entire life because someone gets angry and the police and the state do not know how to use discretion in their jobs.
One other thing of note, while the Romeo & Juliet law was passed in 2007 it applies to anyone who was required to register as a sex offender, even if the incident, the case and the sentencing occurred prior to 2007.
If you were convicted of a sex crime under these circumstances in Florida and believe you may fall under the Romeo & Juliet law, feel free to contact us for a free consultation to see if you are eligible for removal from the sex offender registration requirement.