Florida's Romeo and Juliet Law: Removal from the Sex Offender Registry
Florida Statute Section 943.04354, (otherwise known as “Romeo and Juliet Law"), provides for a petitioner’s removal from the sex offender registry if that person meets certain criteria. The purpose in enacting Section 943.04354 was to eliminate the harsh consequence of lifetime sex offender registry requirements for youthful offenders who engaged in otherwise consensual sexual conduct with a minor. The statute does not de-criminalize the conduct; rather, the statute essentially shields youths engaged in otherwise consensual sexual behavior from being labeled a sex offender.
To qualify for removal from the sex offender registry, the petitioner must satisfy a number of requirements.
The petitioner was convicted of an offense under section 794.011 (sexual battery), or 800.04 (lewd offenses);
The petitioner has not been convicted of any other offense contrary to Sections 794.011, 800.04, 827.071 or 847.0135(5);
As a result of the conviction, the petitioner is required to register as a sexual offender pursuant to Section 943.0435;
At the time of the offense, the alleged victim was between 14 and 17 years of age;
The petitioner was not more than four years older than the alleged victim at the time of the offense; and
Registry removal must not contradict with federal law.
The statute went into effect in 2007; however, the language of the statute clearly states that the section applies to convictions entered before and after the statutory effective date. Further, the statute provides no time limitation for a petitioner to seek relief. Thus, presuming the petitioner meets the above criteria, he may apply for relief at any time.
Consent as a Requirement
In determining a petitioner’s qualifications for removal, a court must find that the act in question was consensual. If the act was not consensual, registry removal would violate federal law. See Miller v. State, 17 So. 3d 778 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009).
If you have been convicted of a sex offense, and if you otherwise meet the above criteria, you may be able to petition the court for an order eliminating the requirement that you register as a sex offender.
The statute requires that a petition be filed in the sentencing court, and requires notice to the State Attorney’s Office. The State will be permitted to present evidence in opposition to the petition during an evidentiary hearing. If the Court determines that you are eligible, the Court may order your removal of the registration requirement. You will then be required to provide a certified copy of the order to Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Department will remove you from the registry. Your conviction will not be vacated, and will still be accessible to the public; however, you will not be listed on the sex offender database. In the event that your petition is denied, you may appeal the order to the appellate court; however, you may not file any further petitions for removal in the circuit court. You must understand that the State may also file an appeal to the District Court of Appeal in the event that the petition is granted.