Whether you’re from an older generation or you grew up with the internet, it’s fair to say that social media is a big part of our just about everyone’s lives today.
We get our news from Twitter. We hear wedding announcements on Facebook. Recipe books have been replaced by Pinterest and classified ads have been replaced by LinkedIn.
Most people have at least one social media account, but if you are on Florida’s sex offender registry, having that account can add felony charges to your record.
That’s right. We said “felony.”
Sex Offenders and Facebook
When someone convicted of a sex crime is released from prison in Florida, they must immediately go to local law enforcement and register as a sex offender. The sex offender registry is a public list of sex offenders that tells surrounding citizens where they can be found.
Every time a sex offender goes to register (re-registry is required at least once a year, but may be more often for more serious offenders) they have to submit personal information. Each state has different requirements for sex offenders, including what information they need to register, where they are allowed to live or visit, and so on.
Florida requires offenders to give their address, vehicle information, place of employment, telephone numbers, and more. The list also includes “Internet Identifiers,” which include Facebook profiles, Twitter handles, online dating profiles, and so on. If an offender creates a new internet identifier, they have 48 hours to register their account with local law enforcement.
So an offender can be on Facebook or Twitter, but they need to make sure that law enforcement knows where to find them. If internet identifiers are not registered with local law enforcement, the offender can face a class 3 felony. Class 3 felony convictions can result in penalties including five years behind bars, five years of probation, or up to $5,000 in fines.
Florida isn’t playing around with this charge, either. Recently, Contact 5 launched an investigation into Florida sex offenders and their presence on social media. As a result of the investigation, one Florida county opened three criminal investigations against sex offenders who may have failed to register internet identifiers.
The investigation found that 38.5% of sex offenders hadn’t registered social media accounts or other internet identifiers. Law enforcement officials told Contact 5 that there were criminal investigations into dozens of Florida sex offenders who neglected to register these accounts.
Additionally, an officer told Contact 5 that he was in charge of over 170 sex offenders, and checked at least once a year to make sure that no one was hiding on social media under an alias or using internet identifiers that weren’t registered with local law enforcement. He said he had arrested six offenders in the past five years for failing to register their Facebook accounts.
The investigation also showed just how much work goes into registering Internet identifiers. Four percent of local sex offenders had registered at least 10 Internet identifiers. One offender had registered 96.
This may seem like an excessive amount of accounts to register, but think about it this way. How many apps do you have on your phone? How many times do you create a new username and password for a site?
Internet identifiers are not just social media profiles. Any time a sex offender registers for a new online game or even a dating profile, they have to register that information with local law enforcement, too.
How to Avoid Further Charges in Florida
If you have been convicted of a sex crime in Florida and have to register as a sex offender, know the rules you have to follow. Something so common has signing up for a social media site or taking a trip outside of Florida could result in serious charges if you are not in contact with local law enforcement.
There are officers and citizens throughout Florida who want to see sex offenders behind bars for any misstep, so you have to be extra cautious and extra diligent about registering and following Florida law.
If you have been arrested or charged for a sex crime, get to know the rules of the Florida sex offender registry. A sex crime is stigmatized more than most other types of crimes in Florida, and has consequences and requirements that can last a lifetime.
The best way to avoid charges related to the sex offender registry is to avoid a sex crime conviction in the first place. There are defense strategies available for defendants who want their charges dropped, as well as options that can be used to fight for a lighter sentence.
To learn more about fighting sex crimes, talk to a Florida sex crimes lawyer today.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.