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How to Avoid Sex Offender Registration in Your False Imprisonment Case

If you’ve been arrested for false imprisonment in Florida you may become automatically registered as a sex offender at the conclusion of your case depending on the facts, even if registration was not part of your plea agreement or ever discussed in court.  A case from the First District Court of Appeal demonstrates how this can happen.

In Brinson v. State, 291 So.3d 620 (Fla. 1st DCA 2020), Mr. Brinson was charged with lewd or lascivious battery, aggravated battery, and false imprisonment. As a factual basis for the charges, the Information alleged Brinson “did unlawfully engage in sexual activity with S.T., a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age, by vaginal penetration; did unlawfully commit a battery upon S.T. and by slamming her into a parked vehicle and choking her did intentionally or knowingly cause great bodily harm; did unlawfully forcibly, by threat, or secretly confine, abduct, imprison, or restrain another person, S.T. without lawful authority and against her will.”

Brinson pleaded no contest to aggravated battery and false imprisonment. As part of the plea agreement, the State dismissed the lewd or lascivious battery charge.  Sex offender registration was not required by the plea agreement. 

As a factual basis to support the plea, the State proffered facts consistent with the Information.  Brinson did not object to the State’s factual predicate. The trial court accepted the plea and pronounced its sentence, which like the plea agreement did not require Brinson to register as a sex offender.

After Brinson completed his prison sentence, the State charged him with violation of probation and failure to report as a sexual offender. Brinson moved to dismiss the State’s charges, contending he did not have to register because he had never been designated a sexual offender by a court and his automatic designation of sex offender status by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement without a hearing violated his due process.

In response, the State argued the probable cause affidavit provided a factual basis for the plea and established a sexual component to the underlying false imprisonment offense. The court found the facts supporting the Brinson’s charges reflected a sexual component was established—his withholding the victim’s clothes to keep her from escaping his residence.

At the hearing on the motions to dismiss, the trial court and the parties relied on the probable cause affidavit to set forth the facts of the underlying convictions and sentencing. Brinson raised no objection.  The trial court denied Brinson’s motions to dismiss his probation violations, finding a sexual component to the underlying false imprisonment conviction was established.  Brinson appealed.

Under Florida’s sexual offender registration statute, conviction of one of the statute’s enumerated offenses automatically imposes upon a defendant both the status of sex offender and the registration requirements. See Florida statute § 943.0435(1)(h) 1.a.(I). The list of enumerated offenses under the statute includes kidnapping and false imprisonment, where the victim is a minor and the defendant is not the victim’s parent. See Florida Statute §§ 787.01, 787.02, 943.0435(1)(h) 1.a.(I). Neither kidnapping nor false imprisonment require a sexual component as an element of the offense. See Florida Statute §§ 787.01, 787.02.

Pursuant to section 943.0435, sexual offender registration status is automatic upon conviction of false imprisonment. There is no requirement for a trial court designation or written findings to create sexual offender status. To reverse the automatically assigned sexual offender status, a defendant must challenge the assigned status by asserting a lack of sexual predicate. If the State does not concede the absence of a sexual component, the defendant must carry the burden of proof for that reversal. The appellate court found Brinson failed to meet his burden.

The appellate court found the record demonstrated Brinson’s false imprisonment charge contained multiple sexual elements and the factual predicate provided to the trial court in support of the plea agreement involved a sexual component. Brinson pleaded nolo contendere to the false imprisonment and aggravated battery charges. The court then noted qualification as a “sexual offender” under section 943.0435 turns on “a single issue—whether one has been ‘convicted of committing, or attempting, soliciting, or conspiring to commit’ any of a number of specified offenses.” As Brinson’s false imprisonment conviction was one of the enumerated offenses under Section 943.0345(1)(a)1, he met  the definition of “sexual offender” which triggered automatically imposition of the registration requirements. Because Brinson was unable to demonstrate he was entitled to relief from his sex offender designation, his conviction for violation of probation was affirmed.

If you’ve been arrested for false imprisonment, you should consult with a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney knowledgeable about, and experienced with, the potential life-long ramifications to you from such charges.  Doing so will afford you the best chance of avoiding the automatic imposition of sex offender status and registration requirements.  Call me for a free case strategy session to learn how I can best help you avoid sex offender registration in your false imprisonment case in Jacksonville, Fernandina Beach, Yulee, Macclenny, Green Cove Springs, Middleburg, St. Augustine or surrounding areas.

 

 

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