On February 23, 2005, Florida residents awoke to a news bulletin: a young girl was missing and police were asking for the public’s help. Over the next month, the search for twelve-year-old Jessica Lunsford dominated local news as pictures of the young girl, and details of her abduction, traveled across the state. As time passed and nobody came forward with information, hope for Lunsford’s safe return diminished. Finally, on March 19, 2005, investigators recovered her body in a shallow grave in her neighbor’s yard. With the search over, Lunsford’s neighbors and family demanded answers to how this crime was possible and sought to punish those responsible for her death.
Floridians were shocked to learn that John Couey, a convicted sexual offender, who lived with his sister across the street from Lunsford, confessed to the crime. In response to Lunsford’s murder, the Florida legislature initiated debates on whether to enact tougher sexual offender registry provisions and also whether to establish new sexual offender crimes and punishments. As a result, the Florida legislature passed the Jessica Lunsford Act (Lunsford Act), as an attempt to create one of the toughest sexual offender laws in the country.
All fifty states and the District of Columbia have enacted some type of sexual offender registry. Individual states are free to determine which provisions and conditions to apply to convicted sexual offenders as long as those provisions meet general federal requirements. Failure to abide by federal requirements may result in the state’s forfeiture of funds allotted for law enforcement block grants.
Convicted sexual offenders have raised challenges alleging such state laws infringe on their constitutional due process rights and constitute ex post facto laws. This Note will analyze specific provisions of the Lunsford Act and determine how prior court decisions will likely apply to the expected challenges to this new law. Specifically, in Part II, this Note will focus on the constitutional substantive and procedural due process requirements in enacting sexual offender registries and the limitation that such laws must not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution. Finally, this Note will analyze the remaining provisions of the Lunsford Act, its objective to keep children safe from sexual offenders, and the practicality of complying with all of its requirements. . . .