Sex offender’s challenge to Florida’s registration requirement barred by statute of limitations
McGroarty sued the Florida Department of Law Enforcement claiming a violation of his substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. McGroarty’s federal lawsuit alleged that the FDLE violated his rights by continuing to publish his personal identifiable information on FDLE’s sex offender registry website even after he had completed a ten year probation for a sex crime and was no longer subject of Florida’s registration laws.
When McGroarty lived in Florida his Florida conviction as a sex offender required him to register there. He then moved out of Florida to California where he lived while he completed his Florida probation. Eventually he moved to North Carolina, and eventually Florida notified him after he completed his probation that he had to continue registering in Florida as a sex offender. Thereafter, Florida maintained information about McGroarty on its online database, including his photograph, pursuant to Florida’s sex offender registry law, Fla. Stat. section 943.0435. In his lawsuit, McGroarty claimed that Florida lost jurisdiction to enforce compliance with its sex offender registry statute after he moved to California in 2004 because he was no longer a resident of Florida. The district court dismissed his lawsuit as time barred under the statute of limitations.
The court of appeals agreed and held his federal lawsuit should be dismissed because it was filed beyond the statute of limitation. A federal lawsuit claiming a Constitutional violation pursuant to §1983 must be filed within four years of the cause of action, in other words, when the allegedly unconstitutional act arises. The appeals court agreed his claim was time barred because his injury occurred in 2004 when he moved to California and was no longer required to register under Florida law.
McGroarty argued an exception applied because he continuously suffers the injury by the continued publication of his information on Florida’s sex offender registry registration. The court of appeals rejected his continuing harm argument. Even if McGroarty was unaware of his alleged injury when it occurred in 2004, the evidence showed he was aware of it in 2012 when he notified by Florida that he was still under reporting obligations. He knew or should have known of his claimed injury by March 2012 when he received a letter from FDLE advising him that he had a continuing registration requirement under the statute which allowed publication of his personal information, even though he had completed his probation two months prior in January.
McGoarty also argued that he did not have a viable claim until the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Nichols v. United States. Nichols was charged with a violation of the federal sex offender registration law SORNA for not updating his new address with the last state he resided in before moving to a foreign country. SORNA is the federal sex offender registry law. The Supreme Court held the federal law did not require Nichols to update his registration in his former state where he no longer lived after moving to a foreign country. But this decision applied only to the Federal law and not to the Florida law requiring registry.