In at least the third similar case filed by out-of-state residents, a federal appeals court Wednesday rejected an Oklahoma man’s constitutional challenge to being kept on a Florida sex-offender registry.
A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by Douglas Lindsey, who was convicted in 1999 of statutory rape, sodomy and lewd molestation in Oklahoma and was required to register in Oklahoma as a sex offender. In 2009, he successfully requested to be removed from the Oklahoma registry.
Lindsey moved to Martin County in 2011 and did not register in Florida as a sex offender, according to the ruling. But the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in 2017 informed Lindsey he was required to register.
In 2019, he requested that the FDLE remove him from the Florida registry based on not being required to register in Oklahoma — a request the agency denied. Lindsey in 2020 moved back to Oklahoma and later filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Florida violated his constitutional rights because it kept him on its registry, which is publicly accessible on the internet.
The Atlanta-based appeals court Wednesday upheld a decision by a district judge to dismiss the case.
“Florida has a legitimate interest in prescribing the manner in which it protects the health and welfare of its citizens from persons convicted of sex offenses,” said the 12-page ruling by Judges Adalberto Jordan, Robin Rosenbaum and Andrew Brasher. “Florida need not dispense with its preferred method of doing so because another jurisdiction has less restrictive requirements on sex offender registration. As the district court essentially recognized, even if Oklahoma did not have any registration requirements for offenders like Mr. Lindsey, that legislative choice would not prevent Florida from enacting a sex offender registration scheme.”
The ruling came as at least two similar cases are pending in Florida state courts.
In one of those cases, a Pennsylvania man appealed in April to the 1st District Court of Appeal after a Leon County circuit judge rejected his attempt to be removed from the Florida registry. The man had to register in Orange County in 2015 because of a 10-day vacation to Disney World. He was removed from the Pennsylvania registry in 2016 but remained registered as a sex offender in Florida.
In the other case, a man convicted of sexual-abuse charges in Oregon had to register in Florida because he lived in Florida from 2012 to 2019. He moved back to Oregon in 2019 and is no longer required to register in that state. He filed a lawsuit last year in Leon County circuit court seeking to be removed from the Florida registry.
Lindsey, 66, argued that his rights were violated under what is known as “Full Faith and Credit Clause” of the U.S. Constitution. In part, that clause requires states to recognize judicial proceedings in other states.
But the federal appeals court pointed to differences in the Florida and Oklahoma registry laws, saying that the “question before us is whether the Full Faith and Credit Clause requires Florida to abide by a discretionary sex offender registration removal procedure provided for under Oklahoma law, but not Florida law. The answer is no.”
“According to Mr. Lindsey, the Oklahoma order is a final judgment entitled to ‘exacting’ full faith and credit in Florida,” Wednesday’s ruling said. “Like the district court, we disagree. Mr. Lindsey’s 1999 Oklahoma convictions remain in place and their validity is not in question. This is not a case, therefore, where the underlying convictions have been set aside. The Oklahoma order, based solely on Oklahoma law … does not purport to bind any other jurisdiction. Nor does Oklahoma, as a general matter, have extraterritorial jurisdiction to exercise police power in Florida.”