Lake Worth Man Could Lose House Thanks to Sex Offender Residency Restrictions

Categories: Crime

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"I really don't feel like I live the life of a typical sex offender," Damian Garcia said on a recent evening on the back patio of his house in Lake Worth.

With his small frame crumbled in a deck chain, the 31-year-old hispanic guy puffs on an electronic cigarette while his 3-year-old son wobbles about the lawn. Upbeat and chatty, he's outlining his big plans for the backyard. "And you see over there," he says gesturing beyond a greenhouse to the tall cement wall blocking the lot from the train tracks. "We're going to put some couches right there and have a movie projector against the wall."

In truth, Garcia doesn't whether he'll be at his dream house in two weeks. When he was 18, Garcia had consensual sex with a girl he met at the beach. She had told him she was 17, but was actually 15. He was arrested and charged with lewd or lascivious battery. Eventually, Garcia accepted a withhold of adjudication, a legal option that technically left him without a felonious record but included three years of probation. Tagged to that stint was placement on the sex offender registry.

"If I was any other criminal my sentence would be done," Garcia says. "Say you're a prospective employer, and you're looking at my background, this doesn't come up at all on a background check. But if you do a Google search of my name, you'll see me on the registry."

It got worse. A 2007 Florida law allowed offenders in statutory cases like Garcia's - known as Romeos - to petition off the registry. Garcia met all the criteria, except to save money he went for a pyscho-sexual evaluation from a different therapist than the one chosen by the court. A judge denied his request. According to the law, a Romeo only has one shot at escape.

Despite the label, Garcia has been able make a good living working small-time finance jobs, enough to move his family recently into the large Lake Worth ranch home. But after Garcia filed his new address for the registry, the phone call came from local police: his new home was 1,500 feet from a bus stop, a violation of Lake Worth's ordinance.

"I don't even know where the bus stop is," he says.

This week, check back with New Times for a longer, comprehensive look at the sex offender registry -- its effectiveness, its controversial logic, and the people fighting to both reform and keep the registry in place.



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8 comments
val03
val03

Damian Garcia is every defintion of a "Romeo" and should be allowed to petition off the registry ASAP.

Truly dangerous offenders like some who have commented here USE persons like Damian for their own self serving purposes. They want the registry abolished due to the fact that in no way can their crimes be construed as Over-prosecution.

Valerie Parkhurst

RodTemple
RodTemple

It is beyond clear that the Sex Offender Registries are not about "public safety" or "protecting children". Those are lies.

But at least it's good that "protection" is not the point of the Registries because they don't do that at all. But worse, experts have constantly and continually stated that the Registries are counterproductive and they are. There are more sex crimes today than there would be if the Registries did not exist. There are more other crimes. The Registries encourage and promote crime.

What the Registries are about is harassment. And that is why no lying, big government, politician, government employee, etc., etc., etc. who support the Registries should be respected. Families that are listed on the Registries are at war with the people who support them.

oncefallendotcom
oncefallendotcom

I personally would not judge Damien regrdless of his guilt, innocence, or what he has done in the past. What I do concern myself with is this-- when a person's time is up, it should be up, instead of creating arbitrary laws designed to further harm registrants. 

All the registries, residency laws, and tracking devices in the world won't stop the FEW registrants from re-offending, nor does it address the 95% or so of sex crime arrests because they involve people with no prior records. But these laws prevent virtually everyone living by these laws to rehabilitate and become productive lives after release.

The solution involves an approach based on evidence of effectiveness, not what just sounds or feels good. 

jaxmom64
jaxmom64

I personally know Damien and he is a wonderful person.  What can you do when a girl lies about her age.  He does not deserve this as well as the many others.  It disgusts me the laws in Florida can do this to a person.  The legislators need to take a look at this draconian system.  This is wrong in every sense of the word.

jaxmom64
jaxmom64

I personally know Damien and he is a wonderful person.  What can you do when a girl lies about her age.  He does not deserve this as well as the many others.  It disgusts me the laws in Florida can do this to a person.  The legislators need to take a look at this draconian system.  This is wrong in every sense of the word.

jaxmom64
jaxmom64

I personally know Damien and he is a wonderful person.  What can you do when a girl lies about her age.  He does not deserve this as well as the many others.  It disgusts me the laws in Florida can do this to a person.  The legislators need to take a look at this draconian system.  This is wrong in every sense of the word.

shellystow
shellystow

Mr. Garcia is correct in that not too many registrants are fortunate enough to maintain well-paying employment and afford a nice home, but there are certainly others who do.

In spite of that, many on the registry are like him. They committed offenses in their past, some less and some more serious, and they continue to be punished due to it many years later after satisfying all court-ordered punishment. They are raising their families, wanting the best for their children, and everywhere they turn, the specter of the public sex offender registry haunts and impedes them.

I look forward to the new article.

RodTemple
RodTemple

@jaxmom64 Florida is a disgusting state and every American should be embarrassed that it exists. There are no Americans or even decent people who think forcing people to be homeless is acceptable. And that is what Florida's lame, useless, idiotic "sex offender" laws do. They are true morons.

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