State lawmakers pass bills to toughen sex offender laws

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FLORIDA —

State lawmakers passed major new legislation Wednesday to crackdown on criminals who target children and the defenseless.

They said the new laws will make Florida the safest state in America to raise a family.

The tough new laws are on their way to Gov. Rick Scott for final approval.

They four bills are meant to keep sexual predators in jail longer and give victims more protection if they get out.

The house speaker said Wednesday these laws will forever change how sexual predators live in Florida.

The four bills will  give courts more power to hand down longer sentences to violent sexual offenders.

One of the bills imposes a mandatory sentence of 50 years for those convicted of the rape or torture of children, seniors or the disabled.

The most sexually dangerous offenders would also have to serve their entire sentences, and wouldn't be allowed to leave early for good behavior.

“I think that's a pretty big cap. I don't think it needs to be higher than 50 but it shouldn't be like five or two,” said Orlando resident Brian Williams.

“I would actually say life, but 50 years? I would be comfortable with 50 years,” said Orange County resident Juana Stanley.

 Another bill that was passed would allow sex predators to be committed to civil facilities even after they serve their prison sentences.

The third bill would require colleges and universities to inform students about a sex offender registry website, and the fourth bill would require sex predators and offenders to provide a wide range of identifying information when they register, including descriptions of any vehicles they have access to.

That bill will go back to the senate for a final vote.

Lawmakers cited incidents where sex offenders received lenient sentences and went on to molest, rape and kill children.

The set of bills was inspired by the death of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle, who was killed last summer in Jacksonville.

She was raped and strangled after she was abducted from a Walmart.

Donald Smith, who was a convicted repeat sex offender, was charged with her killing.

WFTV learned it’s highly likely Scott will sign the bills.