States have different definitions for the term sexual predator. While some states, like Florida, define this term in their state statutes, other states, like California, do not. California laws define the terms sexual offender and sexually violent predator, but not the term sexual predator. An individual should look up the definition of “sexual predator” and related terms in their state laws to understand how the state views the crimes, penalties and requirements related to such charges.
How Florida Defines Terms
Florida defines a sexual predator as a person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense as defined in Florida Statute Section 775.21, the Florida Sexual Predators Act and has a written court order designating the individual as a sexual predator. Alternatively, Florida also defines a person as a sexual predator if they are civilly committed under Florida's Jimmy Ryce Involuntary Civil Commitment for Sexually Violent Predators' Treatment and Care Act and have a written court order designating them as a sexual predator.
Florida defines a sex offender as a person who has been convicted of a qualifying sexual offense in Florida or another state. Qualifying adult convictions include kidnapping or false imprisonment where the victim is a minor, sexual battery, human trafficking and computer pornography.
How California Defines Terms
California defines a sexually violent predator as a person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense against one or more victims and has a diagnosed mental disorder. The disorder makes the person a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is likely they will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior. California defines a sex offender as a person who has been convicted of rape, an attempt to perpetrate rape or conspiracy to commit rape, as well as a number of other crimes related to sexual activity.
Washington State’s Definitions
Washington is similar to California in that its state sex offender laws provide definitions for sexually violent predator and sexual offender, but not for sexual predator. In Washington, the term sexual offender refers to an adult or a juvenile who has been found to have committed, or who has been convicted of, any sex offense or kidnapping offense or who has been found not guilty by reason of insanity of committing these two types of offenses. The term sexually violent predator means a person convicted or charged with a crime of sexual violence who suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility.
Restrictions for Certain Convicts
An individual who has been charged with or convicted of one or more sex crimes may be required to abide by certain rules when maintaining a residence, going to school and engaging in employment. For example, Washington requires that an individual engage in sex offender registration if their conviction is of a certain level of crime, like an adult conviction or a juvenile adjudication for a sex offense or kidnapping offense.
The point of the registration is for members of the public to be able to find the individual on the state’s sex offender registry related to certain sexual crimes. The length of time that an individual must remain on the registry depends on the severity of their crime. If a member of the public sees an individual who is on the registry doing something they consider suspicious, they should call their local law enforcement agency, police department or sheriff’s office to report the activity.
Rules Apply to Out-of-State Offenders
The rules regarding registration typically apply to out-of-state offenders and predators who establish a temporary residence in another state. For example, an offender or predator visiting Florida from another state must report in person to the sheriff’s office within 48 hours of establishing a temporary residence in Florida. They must also report to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles within 48 hours from their registration with the sheriff’s office. They must have their completed sexual offender/predator registration form from the sheriff’s office to obtain a valid Florida identification card or driver’s license.
Failure to comply with these registration requirements is a third-degree felony. A registered sex offender or predator’s information is not removed from the registry’s public website when the person leaves Florida. If the person can be exempt from their home state's or another state’s registration requirement, this does not guarantee they are exempt from the requirement to register in Florida.
- California Welfare and Institutions Code: Section 6600, Sexually Violent Predators
- California Penal Code: Sections 290-294, Sex Offenders
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement: Sexual Offenders and Predators Search
- 2020 Florida Statutes: The Florida Sexual Predators Act
- 2020 Florida Statutes: Involuntary Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators
- Revised Code of Washington: Chapter 9A.44, Sex Offenses
- Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs: Sex Offender Information
- Revised Code of Washington: Chapter 71.09, Sexually Violent Predators
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.