ACLU says sex offender restriction keeps people from living in stable homes

Miami-Dade County's controversial sex offender law forbidding registered sex offenders from living near places where children may congregate is coming under fire. According to the Miami Herald, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging the constitutionality of the law in court. The ACLU says the law denies people the right to find stable housing and essentially forces many people into homelessness and a precarious existence. The housing restriction has made international headlines after images of homeless people appeared worldwide being shuttled from one place to another.

Housing restriction

The housing restriction forbids registered sex offenders from residing within 2,500 feet of a school, park, bus stop, or other place where children are likely to gather. The previous limit was 1,000 feet, but was raised after images of homeless offenders residing under the Julia Tuttle Causeway brought attention to the city's homeless problem.

The restriction also means that sex offenders often have to find new accommodation when a school, park, or similar place opens up near to where they live. For example, the people who resided under the Julia Tuttle Causeway later were forced to move to Shorecrest. However, when a nearby vacant lot was turned into a park the homeless people were forced to move again. They now reside near railway tracks, largely without electricity or shelter.

Rights violated

While the housing restrictions are designed to increase public safety, the ACLU says they go too far. They have launched a lawsuit alleging that the restrictions violate the constitutional rights of offenders by denying them the right to live in vast swaths of the city.

The ACLU also points out that the restrictions may not actually increase public safety as they are designed. By denying offenders the ability to find affordable housing, many of them also have difficulty getting back on their feet and reintegrating into society, thus increasing the likelihood of recidivism.

Criminal defense

As the above story shows, being charged and convicted for a criminal offense carries consequences that often go well beyond prison time and a criminal record. While every criminal offense is a matter to be taken seriously, sex crimes are notorious for the damage they can cause to a person's reputation and quality of life.

Anybody who has been charged with a criminal offense should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney will fight against a criminal charge so that clients will have the help they need to not only hopefully avoid a harsh sentence, but to also keep their reputations intact.

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