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Fla. sheriff who said fugitives would be arrested at Irma shelters faces lawsuit

A man who alleges he was denied entry to a shelter unless he underwent a background check is suing the sheriff

By PoliceOne Staff

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is facing a lawsuit from a man who alleges he was denied access to a shelter unless he underwent a background check.

Last week, Judd posted a series of tweets stating that every shelter would be checking IDs and sex offenders and predators would “not be allowed.” He also tweeted that those with warrants seeking shelter would be escorted to the Polk County Jail.

Judd told the Orlando Sentinel that the lawsuit is “frivolous” and it won’t make him change his policy.

Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Carrie Horstman told the Orlando Sentinel last week that the department hoped the policy would make residents feel safe at shelters and spur more turnout. 

The suit, filed on behalf of Andres Borreno, alleges that deputies told Borreno he would have to undergo a criminal background check before he was able to enter a shelter. Since Florida driver’s licenses clearly mark someone as a sex offender, the policy was discriminatory and violates the Fourth Amendment, according to the lawsuit. The suit does not state if Borreno had an outstanding warrant.

“The officer … also never told Borreno that he was suspected of any crime or illegal act at that time,” the suit states. “Criminal suspicion is not raised by trying to enter an emergency shelter to save one’s life and the life of family members.”

Judd responded stating that Borreno wasn’t treated differently than others seeking safety. He said Borreno was offered shelter at the jail and was offered a ride.

“We check everyone who comes to a shelter to ensure they aren't a sexual predator or a child sexual offender,” Judd said. “We are absolutely not going to let a sexual predator or a child sexual offender sleep next to a child in a storm shelter.”

Judd told the Sentinel that 43 Polk County sex offenders were being sheltered at the jail. They were not in custody or behind bars.

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