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What is the Difference between a Sex Offender and a Sex Predator?

Florida law makes a distinction between a sex offender and a sex predator, though most people would likely not know or care of the difference so long as a person designated with either status is kept away from children or placed in certain isolated areas, if possible. Sex offender and predator registries identify these persons and web sites are available for the public to see if these individuals are residing within their community.

There are differences between these categories based on the severity of the offense and age of the victim with violent sexual offenders classified as sexual predators.

Regarding registration as either an offender or predator, the reporting requirements are not that much different, except that a sexual predator’s ID card or driver’s license can carry the designation of SEXUAL PREDATOR on it while a sex offender may only have the relevant Florida statute identifying the person as a sex offender.

Sex Offenders

Sex offenders may be of either gender and comprise of those individuals who were released from all conditions or sanctions of their sentence after October 1, 1997.

The offenses that characterize a sex offender mainly involve minors and include:

  • Sexual performance by a minor (under the age of 18)
  • Procuring of a minor for purposes of prostitution
  • Child pornography
  • Kidnapping of a minor
  • Video voyeurism of a minor
  • Sexual battery upon a person less than 12 years of age

Sex offenders convicted as adults are required to report to the Sheriff’s office in the county where they reside 2 to 4 times per year. If 4 times, they register on their birthday and every 3rd month following that date. Registration must take place within 48 hours of release from prison or custody or relocation to a new residence or change of motor vehicle status. The offender is also to report to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles regarding the change of residence or vehicle and obtain a driver’s license or identification (ID) card with the designation “943.0435, F.S.”

To have to register 4 times, the offense would have involved minors and any of the following:

  • The victim was not the child of the offender
  • The minor was under the age of 12
  • Molestation involving unclothed genital area
  • Molestation involving the use of force or coercion in genital area or genital
  • Conspiracy to commit any of these offenses

Failure to register is a third degree felony and carries a state prison sentence of up to 5 years and a fine up to $5000.

Sexual Predators

Sexual predators are persons who have been convicted of a first degree felony sex crime or two second degree felony sex crimes or have been released from sanctions imposed for such crimes within 10 years and which all occurred after October 1, 1993. In general, they have committed violent sexual offenses.

A first degree felony sex crime carries a penalty of up to 30 years in state prison and a fine up to $10,000. Sex crimes under this category consist of:

  • Sexual battery on an adult
  • Sexual battery on a person under the age of 12 where injury is to the sexual organs or committed oral, anal or vaginal penetration—carries a sentence of 15 years to life without parole
  • Sexual battery where the offender is at least 18 and the victim older than 12 and the victim is incapacitated or unable to resist or uses threats of force

Persons under the age of 18 who engage in this type of behavior with a minor who is under 12 can receive a life felony sentence if tried as an adult.

A second degree felony sex crime includes lewd or lascivious molestation of a person younger than 16 but older than 12 by someone who is at least 18. You will be sentenced to a minimum of 51 months in prison and up to 15 years of probation.

Sexual predators must register with the Sheriff’s office in the county of residence 4 times per year or on their birthday and every 3rd month subsequently. They have 48 hours to register when relocating or upon release from custody. Registration at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to secure a driver’s license or ID card is also required within 48 hours of moving to a new location or release from custody. These cards contain the designation SEXUAL PREDATOR or 943.0435, F.S.

Failure to register is a third degree felony.

Civil Commitment

Florida laws allow civil commitments of sexual offenders who have been released from prison. This permits the state to detain a person who has committed a violent sexual offense to be locked up indefinitely at a civil commitment center. In essence, it is imprisoning a person who has not committed a crime but who poses a substantial risk to the community based on the crime or crimes previously committed and who has served out whatever sentence was imposed.

Sexual offenders who complete their sentence are given a psychological evaluation to determine if they have a personality disorder or abnormality that would predispose them to committing another violent offense. If so, they are sent to a civil commitment center to await a hearing. Hearings may not be scheduled for several years. If found to be dangerous, the offender may expect to spend the rest of their life there unless a future evaluation and hearing determines they no longer pose a risk.