ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – New proposed legislation sponsored by State Sen. Linda Stewart, of Orlando, and State Rep. Amy Mercado would increase the penalty for exposure of sexual organs from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.
Senate Bill 1018 and House Bill 675 Exposure of Sexual Organs is one of the top priorities for the Orange County sheriff’s legislative team going into the 2020 session in Tallahassee.
Stewart told News 6 she feels the change is badly needed and long overdue.
“I can’t believe we haven’t caught this before,” she told News 6, “They ( police ) would have the ability to investigate, they haven’t been able to do that which is why this law is so necessary.”
Lt. Antorrio Wright, a member of the sheriff’s legislative team, told News 6 if the law is approved it would eliminate the loophole for suspects who in many cases “re-offend."
The Sheriff’s Office had a suspect, identified as Wilfredo Nazzario Jr., linked to a series of separate sex organ exposure cases dating to 2009. Wright said under current state law, the violation does not fall under a so-called “misdemeanor exception,” which would allow police to arrest a suspect, even if the act took place outside of their presence.
“As the law is currently written, we are not lawfully able to obtain arrest warrants for misdemeanors,” he said.
Cpl. Nikki Harper, head of the sex crimes unit, told News 6 the law has been a hindrance to law enforcement across the state.
“No one wants to talk about (sex offenders). No one wants to deal with them,” she said, “But it’s happening all the time.”
The current law is clear that if a positive identity is made, police can file charges with the state attorney’s office, but the charge of misdemeanor leaves little legal intimidation.
State Attorney Phil Archer’s office is currently investigating the alleged exposure case of a woman that took place in Casselberry in July.
The 30-year old Central Florida woman, with her mother at her side, shared her experience with News 6. She said a man allegedly exposed himself to her and performed a sexual act on himself outside of her second-floor hotel window.
She asked to remain anonymous but hoped her story would “make a difference” to help pass the proposed changes in the law.
Security video obtained by News 6 shows a man walking the same path she did a few minutes after she arrived at the hotel.
Four minutes later the video shows the man running away, with the alleged victim clutching her phone and following him to the hotel parking lot. In the 911 call obtained by News 6, the woman sounded panicked as she explained what happened. She then yelled out his license plate number to the dispatcher before the man drove away.
“I am a victim and what happened to me is not my fault,” she said, “This has been extremely difficult. This interview in and of itself is extremely difficult.”
Her mother was visibly upset that under the existing law the man would only be charged with a misdemeanor.
“This is not OK. This is not acceptable behavior,” she said. “It could have been your sister, your mother, your niece!”
Harper said the lenient standard opens the door to repeat offenders.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” she said. "If you are a victim between the ages of 16 and 60, it’s a misdemeanor crime -- period.”
Under the current law, standard jail time of up to a year is possible in these cases, but according to Harper, that’s very rare.
SB 1018: Exposure of Sexual Organs
Click or tap here for a link to the proposed bill.
For more information on bill language click or tap here.
For more information on House Bill 675 click or tap here.