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Lee County Sex Offender Law Being Challenged

November 12, 2009

winknews.com (FLA.):Attorney says Lee County sex offender law is unconstitutional.

On Thursday, a Lee County judge will hear arguments about whether Lee County’s “Child Safety Zone” ordinance is unconstitutional. Attorney Peter Aiken says the law is far too broad to be fair.

“I’m a grandfather in this community. I have two little grandkids,” Aiken said. “I don’t have a problem in the world with real laws, with real penalties.” But Aiken says the “Child Safety Zone” law makes it too difficult to understand where offenders can and can’t be. “The problem with a law like this, which I call a feel-good law, is it makes the public feel good and feel safe, but it doesn’t do anything,” Aiken said.

Aiken represents 57-year-old Joseph Comfort, the first person arrested under the ordinance, after visiting a Lehigh Acres swimming pool in July. The law orders offenders to stay 300 feet from areas “where children congregate” like schools, parks, and beaches; but Aiken says the language is so vague, offenders don’t know where they can be legally.

“If you read this ordinance technically, you can’t go to McDonald’s, because McDonald’s has the playground out front.”

Aiken says Florida law lumps all sex offenders together in one category, whether the past crime involved a child or not. “This law deals with anybody that’s been convicted of a sex offense and has been labeled a sex offender, regardless of how long ago, regardless of the conduct,” Aiken said.

Aiken says Comfort’s crime nearly 20 years ago didn’t involve a child; yet the attorney says this ordinance is like punishing his client for life. “A lot of these people are living clean, productive lives, with children, with families. It’s not fair,” Aiken said. “It is absolutely, 100-percent, not fair.”

Aiken says sex offenders are already subject to tough laws and regular visits by deputies.

Read the full ordinance here: http://www.lee-county.com/gov/bocc/ordinances/Ordinances/09-19.pdf

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