Address Verification of Registered Sex Offenders
For those who are unaware, our taxpayer dollars are spent on "sex offender surveillance squad's" which do nothing but visit a sex offender's registered address to verify that the sex offender is actually living where the registration claims he is living. Don't blame the cops, this address verification process is required by state and federal law. It requires the sheriff's office to physically verify an address at least one time annually for sex 'offenders', or four times for sexual 'predators'. The problem becomes that many Failure to Register Change of Address cases get their start from an unanswered knock on the door by the sex crimes task force. So, if the sex offender doesn't answer the door, and the house "looks" empty, it must be that the offender has moved, right? That's what the police think, but they're wrong. Let's take a closer look a Florida law, by throwing a real life example out there.
Remember the crime here is not failing to be at home when the task force knocks on your door. Remember too that the crime here is not that, somehow, a sex offender is required to have a house full of furniture, it's only that, when a change of address happens--the offender must register that change.
The misconception here is that ‘failing to be at a registered address when the task force knocks’ somehow constitutes a “change in temporary or permanent address” (thus requiring a new registration). In 2004, Florida law was made on this very issue in the case of Hines v. State, 881 So.2d 52 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004). In Hines, his probation officer made five attempts to locate him at his registered residence within a 36-hour period, visits ranging from 5:00 a.m. to late afternoon. What troubled the court in Hines is at the heart of this issue—the lack of proof of a change in residence. Sure, there was evidence that Hines was not present during the day, not present five times. But, so what? This is free country, you can be away from your house. Specifically, the court found that there was “[n]o evidence presented to the jury concerning where and when Hines was eventually located.” Id. Again, a sex offender’s lack of physical presence during the day at his registered address is not evidence of a “change” in address that requires registration under the statute. It's merely evidence that the offender isn't at home during the day--big deal.
In Hines, the court was clear that five visits to the defendant’s home did not establish a change in address as a matter of law, and thus, “on appeal, the State conceded that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction. We agree and find that this evidence is insufficient to prove that Hines permanently or temporarily changed his residence as defined by the statute.” Id. at 54.
The problem with these cases is that there is often is no proof that an offender has changed his residence. Proof that an offender was not present during five or six visits cannot—as a matter of law--establish a change of address under Hines. So, now you know.