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Senator Book, District 32 — Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 26, 2021

CONTACT: Claire VanSusteren, (352) 281-9056


Senator Lauren Book Bill Closing Massive Loophole in Sex Offender Law Advances from Criminal Justice Committee

Plantation, FL —

A bill by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation) closing a massive loophole in Florida’s sex offender law has advanced with full support from the members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and will now head to Senate Judiciary Committee. Book filed SB 234 in response to an identified oversight in Florida law that has allowed at least one sex offender to avoid registration and which sets a precedent for other predators seeking to avoid monitoring.

Two courts have ruled that due to a technicality in Florida sex offender law, a Tampa man who served prison time for molesting two young girls does not have to register as a sex offender until he pays a fine imposed as part of his sentence – a loophole which Book’s bill would fix.

“This is a huge public safety issue which, if left unfixed, will absolutely pave the way for other sex offenders to legally exploit the same loophole to avoid registration and the stipulations that come with it,” says Senator Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and ardent supporter of victims’ rights through her nonprofit foundation Lauren’s Kids.

Ray La Vel James of Tampa was sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine for molesting two young girls – ages 8 and 11 – at a community swimming pool. According to the Tampa Bay Times, James had a reputation for hanging around children, bringing toys to the pool, and inviting young girls to play with him. Both of the little girls at the center of this case testified that James put his hand in their bathing suits and molested them.

“This man is the very definition of someone who should and must be on the sex offender registry and subject to things like community monitoring, and residency restrictions,” Book stated in Committee, “But because of this legal loophole, he could live right next to a community pool if he so chose. Or a school – or a daycare. He could be chatting with children online and we would have no idea, because he is living his life freely, despite a history of preying on young kids.”

Book’s bill amends what has been widely recognized as a dangerous oversight conflicting with the spirit of the law and ensures that sex offenders will have to register as such -  regardless of failure to pay fines. The measure is supported by Attorney General Moody, State Attorneys, the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, Lauren’s Kids, and others.