The Florida Department of Law Enforcement website answers the question regarding where registered sex offenders and sexual predators may live in Florida as follows:
"In very general terms, barring any exceptions as so outlined in Florida Registration Statute, if a subject is a registered offender, who has a released status (meaning he/she is no longer serving any sanctions for the crime), and his/her offense date was committed before 10/1/2004, there is no Florida Statutory restriction on where he/she can live based upon his/her designation as an offender/predator.
However, Florida Statute 794.065, provides that certain individuals who have been convicted of a violation of s. 794.011, s. 800.04, s. 827.071, or s. 847.0145, with an offense date on or after October 1, 2004, where the victim of the offense was less than 16 years of age, cannot reside within 1,000 feet of any school, day care center, park, or playground. Please see the complete statutory text for F.S. 794.065 for further information.
Furthermore, there may also be municipal and/or county ordinances in your area regarding sex offenders/predators. Contact the appropriate entities in your local area (i.e. your local Sheriff’s Office and/or Police Department) to obtain this information. For contact information for each of the Sheriff’s Offices and Police Departments click on Links from the registry website.
Finally, if you are a sexual offender/predator who is still serving sanctions imposed, such as probation, parole, or community control under the [Florida] Department of Corrections (DC), you are required to follow the Conditions of Probation ordered by the judge in accordance with Florida statute. Restrictions are normally listed in these conditions. You should contact your probation officer directly for more information."
Some city and county ordinances in Florida make it extremely difficult–if not impossible–for sexual offenders to live lawfully in their communities. Take Miami for example. Last year, CNN reported how some sex offenders in that city have resorted to living under a bridge in order to comply with Miami’s sex offender registration laws:
MIAMI, Florida (CNN) — The sparkling blue waters off Miami’s Julia Tuttle Causeway look as if they were taken from a postcard. But the causeway’s only inhabitants see little paradise in their surroundings.
Five men — all registered sex offenders convicted of abusing children — live along the causeway because there is a housing shortage for Miami’s least welcome residents.
"I got nowhere I can go!" says sex offender Rene Matamoros, who lives with his dog on the shore where Biscayne Bay meets the causeway.
The Florida Department of Corrections says there are fewer and fewer places in Miami-Dade County where sex offenders can live because the county has some of the strongest restrictions against this kind of criminal in the country.
Florida’s solution: house the convicted felons under a bridge that forms one part of the causeway.
The Julia Tuttle Causeway, which links Miami to Miami Beach, offers no running water, no electricity and little protection from nasty weather. It’s not an ideal solution, Department of Corrections Officials told CNN, but at least the state knows where the sex offenders are.
Nearly every day a state probation officer makes a predawn visit to the causeway. Those visits are part of the terms of the offenders’ probation which mandates that they occupy a residence from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
But what if a sex offender can’t find a place to live?
That is increasingly the case, say state officials, after several Florida cities enacted laws that prohibit convicted sexual offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks and other places where children might gather. (Watch one sex offender describe how he was forced to give up an apartment )
Bruce Grant of the Florida Department of Corrections said the laws have not only kept sex offenders away from children but forced several to live on the street.
"Because of those restrictions, because there are many places that children congregate, because of 2,500 feet, that’s almost half a mile, that’s a pretty long way when you are talking about an urban area like Miami, so it isn’t surprising that we say we are trying but we don’t have a place for these people to live in," Grant said.
For several of the offenders, the causeway is their second experience at homelessness. Some of them lived for months in a lot near downtown Miami until officials learned that the lot bordered a center for sexually abused children.
Trudy Novicki, executive director of Kristi House, said the offenders’ presence put the center’s children at risk. "It was very troublesome to learn that across the street there are people who are sex offenders that could be a danger to our children," she said.
Keeping the rats off
With nowhere to put these men, the Department of Corrections moved them under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. With the roar of cars passing overhead, convicted sex offender Kevin Morales sleeps in a chair to keep the rats off him.
"The rodents come up next to you, you could be sleeping the whole night and they could be nibbling on you," he said.
Morales has been homeless and living under the causeway for about three weeks. He works, has a car and had a rented apartment but was forced to move after the Department of Corrections said a swimming pool in his building put him too close to children.
The convicted felons may not be locked up anymore, but they say it’s not much of an improvement.
"Jail is anytime much better than this, than the life than I’m living here now," Morales said. "[In jail] I can sleep better. I get fed three times a day. I can shower anytime that I want to."
Morales said that harsher laws and living conditions for sex offenders may have unintended consequences.
"The tougher they’re making these laws unfortunately it’s scaring offenders and they’re saying, ‘You know what, the best thing for me to do is run,’" Morales said.
A Miami Herald investigation two years ago found that 1,800 sex offenders in Florida were unaccounted for after violating probation.
Florida’s system for monitoring them needs to be fixed, says state Senator Dave Aronberg, who proposed a bill to increase electronic monitoring and create a uniform statewide limit that would keep them 1,500 feet away from places where children go.
‘We need to know where these people are at all times," Aronberg said after CNN invited him to tour the bridge where the sex offenders live. "We need residency restrictions, but just don’t have this hodgepodge of every city having something different."
State officials say unless the law changes their hands are tied, and for now the sex offenders will stay where they are: under a bridge in the bay.