Court backs sex offender ordinance in Palm Bay

Appellate court releases ruling saying ordinance does not violate offenders' constitutional rights

PALM BAY, Fla. – There is a major victory for a Central Florida city looking to impose tougher restrictions on sex offenders.

Palm Bay's sex offender ordinance has been debated many times at city hall. Some say it puts too many restrictions on sex offenders, but Friday an appellate court released a ruling saying the ordinance does not violate offenders' constitutional rights.

A 41-year-old Palm Bay man who didn't want to be identified said he was labeled a sex offender at 18. More than 20 years later, the label still haunts him.

"This one thing is going to be with me the rest of my life," he said. "I don't know why Palm Bay is so strict."

Florida law states a sex offender may not reside within 1,000 feet of any school, child care facility, park or playground if the victim was under 18.

Palm Bay's ordinance goes further and prohibits sex offenders from making deliveries or performing work at any residence, school or any place where children or vulnerable adults may reside.

A Local 6 investigation last fall found more than one sex offender working for a company delivering pizza's in Orange County. In Palm Bay, depending on who lived in those homes, they would have broken the law.

"They shouldn't be able to do that," Annette Huggins told Local 6.

Huggins lives in Palm Bay and doesn't believe the ordinance is too restrictive.

"It's not strict enough," she said.

A Palm Bay sex offender sued the city, saying the ordinance was unconstitutional, but an appellate court Friday shot down five of the six challenges.

The court did take issue with one word in the ordinance, when talking about where offenders are prohibited from making deliveries or doing work. It says any place where children or young adults may reside. The court said that could be virtually every residence in the city. As long as they remove that word, the ordinance remains.