MIAMI — Two convicted sex offenders forced to live under a causeway bridge are challenging a Miami law that prohibits them from living within 2,500 feet of places where children gather.
The two men — 22-year-old Bryan Exile and 31-year-old Elliott Bloom — are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union in the lawsuit filed Wednesday. The ACLU contends that the Miami-Dade County ordinance conflicts with a state law setting a 1,000-foot distance limit.
The lawsuit argues that Miami-Dade's ordinance has forced about 70 sex offenders to live under the bridge because they can't find anywhere else to live. Many others are homeless or have absconded, according to the ACLU.
Last year, Tampa City Attorney David Smith advised the Tampa City Council not to enact a similarly restrictive ban of 2,500 feet, and the council agreed.
Smith, who has since gone into private practice, said he feared a lawsuit at the time because "such a restriction was tantamount to banishment from the city."
"I was concerned that it was cruel and unusual punishment with the potential for a challenge," he said.
Smith based his advice on opinions of law enforcement officers.
"Again and again, they told us: Don't drive sexual offenders underground. Let them live in the city under our scrutiny and with our assistance," he said.
Current Tampa City Attorney Chip Fletcher said he was not aware of "anything like the Miami ACLU lawsuit that would challenge where sex offenders live in Tampa."
"There are some nontraditional addresses like on a boat," said Fletcher, "but our primary focus is on monitoring sexual offenders and keeping up with where they are, not on forcing them outside because of distance restrictions."