TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — A comprehensive bill dealing with DMV reform had a controversial provision distinguishing sex offenders based on their driver licenses, though the contention seems to have killed the bill in the last week of session.
SB 1252 revamps designations on sex offenders’ and predators’ driver licenses. Currently, sexual predators have the words “SEXUAL PREDATOR” printed on their license – this bill requires these words be printed in red. The current printed statute “943.0435, F.S” on sexual offenders’ licenses must also be bright red.
“COMPARISON TO SCARLET LETTERS IS UNDENIABLE”
“There are already systems in place,” Sen. Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach) opposed the bill, concerned about discriminatory impacts: “It troubles me that we're putting it in red, particularly. I mean the comparison to those scarlet letters is undeniable.”
Constitutional worries plagued the legislation, with similar laws being struck down in Alabama and Louisiana on the grounds of First Amendment violations.
Under Florida statute, a sex offender is anyone who commits a sex crime with no previous criminal history. A sex predator is one step further, having committed either a first-degree felony once (such as rape), or having a history of sex crimes.
“THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES” FOR SEXUAL CRIMES
Nonetheless, the bill was defended by Sen. Ileana Garcia (R-Miami) and – in a surprising break from party lines – Minority Leader Lauren Book.
"I think this is a way to be able to keep our eyes on them and continue to create awareness,” Garcia said in a past Committee on Fiscal Policy, “There are consequences for landing on a sexual registry."
A withdrawn amendment by Sen. Book would have given the bill even more teeth – requiring any vehicle owned, leased, or driven by a sex offender to have a fluorescent green license plate. An unusual departure from her Democratic colleagues, it is not shocking the amendment was withdrawn.
After three postponements in three consecutive days, SB 1252 no longer appears on the session calendar, with no indications of the bill being revived. Considering Florida’s crackdown on sexual offenders this session – with the death penalty now available for child rapists – the bill’s apparent death is an unexpected occurrence.