Sunday, May 31, 2009
(note how the term "predator" is misused in the headline of this story)
In today’s economy, finding a job is tough for most people. But imagine what it would be like if you had the equivalent of a scarlet letter attached to your job applications.
A Rosenberg man who has been out of work for several months says that since the state recently added new information to its revamped online sex offender registry, it’s been more difficult for him to get a job.
Employers, who might have been willing to give the 25-year-old registered sex offender a chance, now refuse to hire him because they don’t want their business name and address listed on the registry, said Gordon, who asked that his last name not be used to protect his privacy.
The Texas Department of Public Safety added employment, school and occupational license information to offenders’ profiles about six months ago as part of a $1.2 million redesign of the online registry, which includes a new e-mail notification feature. DPS officials said states are required to post such information under federal law.
Making the information available to the public has struck a chord with registered sex offenders and their advocates who say it’s unnecessary and poses another hardship for offenders who want to be productive citizens. Crime victim advocates, however, argue the information is an another tool to protect the community.
Mary Sue Molnar, a founder of Texas Voices, a sex offender advocacy group, said more information means less safety if sex offenders can’t find work or lose their jobs. She said she gets e-mails daily from offenders and their loved ones asking for help.
“This is not keeping the public any safer,” said Molnar, whose son is a convicted sex offender. “It’s a feel-good law. It’s a tremendous problem. We want them to reintegrate into society and lead productive lives, and they can’t do that when they don’t have jobs.”
She said state and federal laws should distinguish between dangerous and non-dangerous sex offenders (but they do not do so). She said many sex offenders pose no risk to the community. Some are low-risk offenders who were in consensual relationships and the offender didn’t know the victim was under age. In some cases, they are married to the victim and they have children. Having their employer and school information online can be devastating to their families, she said.
Gordon, who is listed as a moderate risk on the state’s registry, agrees with Molnar. He is serving eight years of probation after accepting a plea deal on aggravated sexual assault of a child charges in 2004. He said he had a consensual relationship with a teenager who said she was 19. He believes only dangerous sex offenders should have employer and school information posted on the registry.
Gordon, who lives with his parents, said he is up front with employers about his criminal history and has had other jobs since his conviction. He said he follows all the requirements of his probation, including sex offender treatment. All he needs now is a job.
The information posted on the registry is required under the Adam Walsh Act signed by President George W. Bush in 2006. The act established a national sex offender registry and states were given three years to implement the law. The state attorney general has the authority to issue guidelines in interpreting and implementing the law.
Friday, May 29, 2009
It’s a new trend throughout the state, and so far sheriffs in 18 other counties have implemented similar programs, Stammitti said. He expects other sheriffs will follow because of budget problems throughout the state.
If an offender makes less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level — $13,537 annually for an offender who is single with no dependents or $27,562 for an offender in a family of four — they won’t be required to pay, Stammitti said.
The fees will go into effect July 1.
Read more here:
Thursday, May 28, 2009
This generation has our own exploitation "scare" tactics in the name of online sex offender registries and the apparent threats parents are made to believe that on every street there is a "predator" who wants to have sex with their child.
But perhaps it is useful for us to learn from our history. As such, we can understand that the social pendulum swings back-and-forth on social panic topics. In the 1990's it was drunk driving. Today it is sex offenders. But back in the 1950's and 60's they had their own social panic about sex offenders and child molesting. We strongly urge you to watch the two films below "Boys Beware (1961)" and "The Child Molester (1964)". There is much to learn from watching them.
The task force charged by the Broward County Commission with finding a way out of the conundrum created by sex offender residency restrictions has listened to experts, crunched numbers and discussed a dismaying array of unintended consequences.
By its second meeting on Tuesday, none of the task force members were defending the notion that draconian restrictions actually protected children from sex offenders.
They discussed better solutions than laws that forced registered sex offenders into homelessness; that left parole officers with no alternative but to send them to live under a highway bridge; that encouraged sex offenders to cluster in neighborhoods with less restrictive ordinances.
They talked about the documented failure of these laws in other states. They talked about laws, instead, that would keep sex offenders from loitering around places where children congregate. They talked about re-zoning industrial areas to allow sex offender housing.
They talked about restrictions that fail to distinguish between less dangerous offenders and sexual predators.
They pushed beyond the emotional stuff and dug for what made sense.
It was the kind of thoughtful examination needed to sort out a complicated and volatile problem.
Except, it comes too late. Most of South Florida's cities (and Miami-Dade County) have already passed 2,500-foot restrictions around schools, parks, day care centers, even school bus stops. The County Commission holds sway over less than three square miles of unincorporated Broward.
Lincoln, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska lawmakers have approved a number of changes that are designed to make it easier for the public to track sex offenders.
Under the measure (LB285) lawmakers passed on Thursday, crimes including incest, sexually assaulting an inmate and sexual enticement using computers would land offenders on the state's sex-offender registry.
The law would be retroactive for people convicted of those offenses since 1997.
The proposal follows the 2006 passage of a federal law meant to create a national system for registering sex offenders.
"Under LB 285, the list of registry offenses would be expanded to include: incest, unlawful intrusion, sexually related child abuse offenses, sexual assault of an inmate or protected adult and sexually motivated offenses. The new registry and notification requirements would apply retroactively to all sex offense convictions entered on or after January 1, 1997"
Final Reading Copy of Bill
Constitutionalfights has been warning of this. Once one group of citizens is permitted to be publicly shamed and persecuted (even retro-actively) in the way that these online registries do, it will soon be extended to other groups of citizens. Already there are bills in some states to add drug, animal cruelty and drunk driving offenses to online registries.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Manitowoc County law enforcement attempted to share information about a convicted sex offender's release into the community, but local citizens did not attend the meeting at the Manitowoc Police Department Tuesday evening.
This story tells you something, doesn't it?
No matter how much we infringe upon the rights of former sex offenders, it really comes down to personal responsibility of parents.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
- by constitutionalfights.org
If you read or watch any news report related to sex offender laws in the United States, you have surely heard the word "predator" used repeatedly and improperly. The fact that these so-called journalists misuse this term so universally is disturbing enough. But the perception that their inaccuracies create is an even greater danger.
Of course you cannot assume these ever-increasing, newly-crafted, "blanket" sex offender laws apply only to those horrible "predators". In each and every case, residence restrictions, life-long reporting requirements, home visits, registration fees and nearly every other sex offender law applies to all sex offenders. This is the fundamental flaw in the concept of these laws (including the Adam Walsh Act); they do not differentiate between low risk and high risk ex-offenders.
All of these pariah laws are doing nothing to protect public safety. In fact, studies are showing that these laws are counter-productive to community safety, as they drive ex offenders to extremes where they are set up to fail and have no reason not to re-offend. If he cannot get a job, is forced out of his family house because it is too close to a school or park, and everyone in his community views him as a monster, what reason does he have to be law-abiding?
Even the term "sex offender" is used as a means to stir panic and fear in our neighborhoods. This term allows the government and law enforcement to label hundreds of thousands of people in this nation who have made just one bad mistake in their lives to a life-long branding as a "sex offender".
Are those who were convicted a decade ago branded with the label "drunk driver" for life? No.
Is the man who was arrested 12 years ago for domestic abuse labeled by the law for life as the "wife beater". No. How many people in this country have been arrested for drug abuse (or offenses) ; and are they branded with the label of "drug offender" for the remainder of their lives? No.
Ex Offenders who have a sex offense in their history are the only group we allow to be labeled in such a way , for life. This will explain why Constitutionalfights often uses the term "ex offender" rather than "sex offender". We urge readers to correct the misuse of the terms "predator" and "sex offender" wherever and whenever they are able to do so.
Cranston — So far there’s been no silver-bullet resolution of the controversy over housing convicted sex offenders at a local homeless shelter, but the public outcry has prompted one response — a possible change in state law.
Sen. Hanna M. Gallo, D-Cranston, has sponsored a bill that would make it a felony for anyone convicted of first- or second-degree child molestation to set foot in a playground, daycare center or school.
If adopted, the bill would amend a law the General Assembly adopted only last year, eliminating language that bars convicted sex offenders from living within 300 feet of a school because the restriction was recently found to be unconstitutional.
The 2008 law was challenged by former Central Falls City Council member Luis Gil, who pleaded guilty in February to two counts of third-degree sexual assault. Gil argued, among other things, that the restriction amounted to an unconstitutional taking of his property because he would have been forced to move. Superior Court Judge Joseph F. Rodgers Jr. agreed, writing in his decision that the residency restriction amounts to a taking “without just and adequate compensation.”
Gallo said her bill is not a solution to the issue of sex offenders staying at Harrington Hall — a homeless shelter that is about a quarter-mile from a playground and about a half-mile from the nearest school. But she said it at least sets limits that do not exist in the current law and should act as a deterrent.
The bill calls for up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000, if a convicted first- or second-degree child molester is found guilty of setting foot on one of the protected properties.
(Again, the government is banishing a group of citizens from public places)
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Registered sex offenders could be banned from more places under a bill in the General Assembly that would change the existing rule that keeps them 300 feet from places primarily catering to children. Under state law, sex offenders cannot be at schools, children's museums, day cares, playgrounds or other locations intended for children.
House Bill 1317 would specify additional places from which registered sex offenders would be banned, such as a movie theater showing a G- or PG-rated film.
Leigh Sparacino, a Chapel Hill mother, said she will also watch the bill, but she thinks restrictions likely won’t do anything more to protect her daughter.
"Statistically, she has a much greater chance of being injured or molested from someone she knows personally – a family friend or a teacher or a coach, or something like that," Sparacino said.
If you are a sex offender in Alabama, forget about continuing your education. It is now illegal for you to be on or near a university campus
Governor Riley signed new restrictions on where sex offenders can live into affect Monday. The new law prevents convicted sex offenders from living with 2,000 feet of a college or university. Its a change from current Alabama law which applied to sex offenders living near elementary, middle and high schools. In addition to adding universities and colleges, the new law also prohibits sex offenders from loitering within 500 feet of school bus stops.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Now available via SSRN is this piece, titled "Residency Restrictions for Convicted Sex Offenders: A Popular Approach on Questionnable Footing," that provides an effective review of the law and policy of sex offender residency restrictions. Here is the abstract:
Municipalities across the country are adopting residency restrictions prohibiting convicted sex offenders from living in close proximity to places that children are likely to frequent. The number of sex offenders is large -- by one report there are some 550,000 registered sex offenders nationally. As more and more local and state governments adopt residency restrictions, municipal lawyers and planners are increasingly finding themselves at the center of the debate. The literature and discussions in case law suggest that residency restrictions do not reduce recidivism, do not offer any real protection for potential victims, are generally not legally defensible, and thwart efforts to reform offenders and return them to society. This however, is ignored by the emotional demands of community residents to enact these laws to “protect vulnerable children” from convicted offenders. As a body is case law is starting to develop concerning these laws, it is becoming apparent that municipalities may have difficulty defending residency restrictions. This article provides a brief review of the literature and then discusses constitutional and statutory issues through an examination of recent caselaw.
Austin — Some state lawmakers want to tweak how Texas deals with sex offenders, sparking a thorny debate over how to strike the right balance between protecting children and allowing low-risk offenders to avoid a lifetime of shame.
Bills this session would regulate how sex offenders use the Internet, bar them from certain jobs and require homeless offenders to report regularly to law enforcement agencies.
There is also a pushback of sorts from those who feel that the current laws may go too far.
Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, filed what he has called his "teenage lovers bill" in March. The bill would let defendants petition a judge to exempt them as a registered sex offender under a strict set of circumstances: the age-based offense was consensual, the victim is at least 13 years old and the defendant is no more than four years older than the victim.
"A lot of the cases that we see that are truly 'Romeo and Juliet,’ there’s usually more than a four-year difference," said Johnson, who added that she wasn’t opposed to the bill.
Phillip Taylor, a Dallas therapist who has treated sex offenders, questions the value of closely monitoring low-risk sex offenders.
"The assumption seems to be that there’s a zero-sum game and any law that makes things more difficult for someone who is labeled a sex offender somehow benefits society or benefits the victim," Taylor said. "It’s an odd notion."
This legislative session, groups such as San Antonio-based Texas Voices, which supports Smith’s bill, have been out in force at committee hearings advocating for changing the laws to put less of a burden on low-risk offenders.
Allison Taylor, executive director of the Council on Sex Offender Treatment, has said that she would like to see the state switch to "risk-based registration" that takes into account that not everyone on the registry is a child predator.
She said the burden of having a relative on the registry, especially the distance requirements from places children gather, falls on the whole family.
"If he’s with me, I have to stop and think about everything I do," she said. "He can’t go to McDonald’s."
She said she hopes lawmakers consider whether everyone on the list should be treated as a threat to children.
"I’m not proud of what he did, but for him to pay the rest of his life is ridiculous," she said. "He’s not a child molester."
"One of the next steps I suppose is maybe we ought to tattoo these people," said Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston. "Therefore everyone would know who they are, and that’s what frightens me about this. Sometimes I think government reaches too far, and I think this is one of those times."
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Sentencing Law & Policy : Two significant sex offender rulings on constitutional issues from the Eighth Circuit.
As noted on this official opinion page the Eighth Circuit has released two significant sex offender rulings today. Here are the basic detail (and links) from the unofficial summaries on that page:
United States v. Roger Dean Tom, No: 08-2345 -- District court erred in finding 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4248 (the "Adam Walsh Act") was an unconstitutional exercise of Congress's powers under the Commerce Clause; Congress, having been empowered by the Commerce Clause to criminalize and punish the conduct of which defendant is guilty, has the ancillary authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause to provide for his civil commitment so that he may be prevented from its commission in the first place; 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4248 does not upset the delicate federal state balance mandated by the Constitution.United States v. Scott Hacker, No: 08-2427 -- SORNA's registration and penalty provisions are valid exercises of Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause; Hacker lacks standing to raise a Tenth Amendment challenge to SORNA; Hacker lacks standing to assert an argument that Congress impermissibly delegated to the Attorney General the authority to determine SORNA's retroactive effect; Hacker lacks standing to challenge the interim rule on APA grounds.
Legislators moved today to reverse what they say could be unconstitutional limitations on sex offenders' movements. They want to scale back a law they passed last year that now is keeping some sex offenders from church, and could also ban them from some restaurants, libraries and stores.
Trying to avoid further unintended consequences, lawmakers this time are getting more specific about where they don't want sex offenders to go, including:
• amusement parks.
• toy stores or toy departments.
(want to shop for a Christmas gift for your nephew? The government will arrest you)
• movie theaters that are showing G-rated or PG-rated films.
(want to go to a cinema with a friend? The government will arrest you)
• colleges, unless the offender is a student there.
(want to attend an art exhibit or concert at the local college? The government will arrest you)
• gyms and fitness centers.
(want to get fit and live a healthy life? The government will arrest you)
• state and county fairs.
• school bus stops.
• libraries during children's programs.
These add to existing restrictions on schools, children's museums, child care centers and nurseries.
The proposal by Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, specifically allows offenders to attend places of worship, as long as religious leaders know about their status and give them permission.
(want to go to church? The government will arrest you if you don't tell your pastor you're legal history)
The proposal was unveiled and endorsed by a House committee today. It could receive a House vote this afternoon.
We urge all readers in North Carolina to contact this idiot legislator, Rick Glazier at:
Legislative Mailing Address: NC House of Representatives
16 W. Jones Street, Room 2215
Raleigh, NC 27601-1096
Sex offenders are just like the rest of us, according to criminologist and researcher Philip Birch.
Birch, who has come from the United Kingdom to take up a position at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), challenges the notion that sex offenders are psychologically damaged, lonely, insecure or dysfunctional.
Instead, he says we are more likely to find offenders in our homes, workplaces and neighborhoods than lurking behind a bush in a dirty trenchcoat.
"It serves us well to construct the sex offender as the `other', (to believe) they're not like us, that there's something pathologically wrong with them," Birch says. "It serves us to have these theories that give us grand explanations why they commit such offenses, when actually it's a little bit more complex.
"The attacker is usually known to the victim. They are our fathers, they are our brothers, they are our uncles, they are our family members. They are our next door neighbours that we invite around for a barbecue and a beer."
Birch, who recently delivered a seminar entitled The Making of a Sex Offender at UNSW, bases his conclusions on a study he conducted two years ago that later became the book Sex as Crime?, published in 2008.
Birch set out to test previous research linking sex offenders to so-called "insecure attachment styles".
Attachment styles are developed with a main caregiver between the ages of six and 24 months and act as a "blueprint" for our relationships in later life, he says. A child who has an uncaring parent is likely to develop an insecure attachment style, he says.
"Research indicates these insecure attachment styles are mapped into sexual offending," he says. "Sexual offenders demonstrate high levels of insecure attachment styles." But when Birch compared attachment styles among sexual offenders and non-offenders, he found no evidence that offenders were more insecure than the non-offending population. "My non-sex offending population sample actually demonstrated higher levels of insecure attachment styles than the sex offenders," he says.
What this implies, Birch says, is that rather than a person being destined to become a sex offender, it's something we all have the capacity for, given the right circumstances.
"I argue that attachment styles. . . change and develop and will always map on to the environment we find ourselves in," he says. "That would imply that any one of us at any given time. . . could be a sex offender."
He says this is consistent with what is known about sexual crimes: "(They are) more likely to take place in the home, more likely to be committed by someone we know, it's our fathers, our brothers, our uncles."
Birch says the portrayal of sex offenders in the media and films, such as the troll-like pedophile played by Jackie Earle Haley in the movie Little Children, fuels the stereotypes his research challenges.
"That sends out the message that they're a homogeneous group, and we know they're not," he says.
Birch says his research also has implications for getting a realistic image of sexual offenders and understanding where potential victims are most likely to be at risk. "We construct the sex offender as `the other' but they're not, they're living amongst us, with us, between us.
"The likelihood of knowing one is probably high."
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Republican State Representative Karyn Polito has spent much of her political career fighting for tougher legislation when it comes to sex offenders in the Bay State. Now, she is taking that fight a step further after learning a man convicted of groping a teenage girl and exposing himself on the MBTA Green Line still holds a state license to sell real estate. "When it comes to holding a license, that's a privilege," Polito said.
She's drafting legislation that would expand the list of crimes requiring offenders to register with the state -- it would also bar those offenders from getting any professional state license.
So this idiot legislator from Massachusetts wants to make it even more difficult for ex offenders to re-integrate into society, and to have any profession which requires a professional license. These kind of foolish lawmakers are what put our communities at greater danger, by ostracizing ex -sex offenders to be branded for life, and making it impossible to re-integrate into normal lives. We urge all readers in Massachusetts to contact this woman to insist that she become more informed on this issue.
Telephone: 617-722-2230 District Office: 508-845-2300
Watch Video Report: http://www.necn.com/Boston/New-England/2009/05/11/Call-for-stricter-sexual/1242090985.html
Monday, May 11, 2009
State legislators should halt plans to tamper with a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that prevents towns from creating "pedophile-free" zones.
The state Supreme Court last week upheld a lower court's decision nullifying sex-offender residency laws in Cherry Hill and Galloway Township, Atlantic County.
About 120 municipalities throughout New Jersey have adopted ordinances restricting where sex offenders can live. In Cherry Hill, the local law banned convicted sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, churches, parks, or other places where children might congregate. That meant nearly the entire township was off-limits.
The court ruled that such restrictions interfere with the statewide Megan's Law of 1994, which requires that paroled sex offenders register with authorities. The registry cannot be used to deny housing to offenders, which is what the local ordinances did.
A patchwork of local residency bans only serves to drive paroled offenders underground. The public is more likely to be protected if parole officers know where the offenders are living and monitor them regularly.
Besides, a ban on living in a township can't stop an offender from driving through that town.
The instances in which strangers abuse children are horrible, and they get intensive media coverage. But those cases are not the norm. About 90 percent of child sexual abuse is committed by a person known to the child, usually a family member.
Legislators in Trenton are pushing bills that would get around the court ruling and again give municipalities the ability to ban paroled sex offenders. It's not an effective way to attack this difficult problem. A better option is to make sure enough parole officers and treatment programs are working with offenders and keeping track of them.
By Sherry F. Colb , Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell Law School
Theorists of criminal justice typically cite four reasons for punishing people who commit crimes. One is retribution, the moral desire to make a person who has acted wrongfully suffer and thus pay for his mistakes. Within retributive theory, we can ask, for example, whether a person who rapes but does not kill a child deserves to be executed. In conducting proportionality review under the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishments, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Kennedy v. Louisiana, answered this particular question in the negative.
The retributive approach to crime is, in some sense, the purest. Rather than utilizing the apprehended criminal (and his penalty) as a means of shaping others' behavior, the retributivist examines the content of the criminal's character, as manifested by his conduct, and decides what the proper penalty would be, putting aside instrumental considerations.
In contrast, a second common reason for punishment is deterrence, both general and specific. In general deterrence, penalties aim to scare aspiring criminals, as a group, into changing their evil ways. At best, general deterrence prevents people from offending before anyone has had to suffer punishment – that is, the law on the books chills misconduct without having to be enforced. In reality, of course, people do offend and thereby "test" the threat of the criminal law, and their penalties then serve to emphasize, for others, the downside risk of crime.
Specific deterrence operates at the level of the particular person receiving the punishment; by suffering the consequences of his actions, he learns for the future that "crime doesn't pay" and avoids reoffending.
A third objective of criminal punishments is to incapacitate offenders and thereby restrain them from committing further crimes. In the case of imprisonment, for example, a person who is living inside a penitentiary does not have the same opportunities to engage in anti-social conduct as he would on the outside. A sentence of death, once executed, ensures that the offender can no longer hurt anyone. Accordingly, some juries consider "future dangerousness" as an aggravating factor when deciding whether to sentence a killer to death. For extremely dangerous offenders, a prison term alone might not be sufficient to prevent them from killing again.
Fourth, criminal punishment may direct itself toward rehabilitating offenders. The phrase "house of corrections" and the word "reformatory" reference this objective and imply that a person who commits a wrongful act can be changed into the sort of person who would no longer do so. Rehabilitation might involve therapy or behavioral conditioning (A Clockwork Orange explores the potential dark side of this approach), but it treats criminality as a pathology or defect that is subject to reform.
The holier-than-thou effect might, however, help us to see that many of the people who are languishing in prison are not "worse" people than their law-abiding counterparts. Indeed, we might have behaved as they did under the "right" circumstances. This view does not mean that we cannot punish criminals, but it does call into question the conclusion that most convicts are beyond redemption and should be, in effect, written off with long, life-destroying prison sentences. Indeed, the situation-dependent nature of behavior counsels against surrounding a person convicted of wrongdoing with other criminals for long stretches of time, during which he will be almost entirely cut off from what lawful behavior in civilized society looks like. Shorter and less brutal sentences, coupled with humane and educational transition opportunities for former prisoners, could yield better results for everyone.
To take into account the holier-than-thou effect might also facilitate the forgiveness necessary to our ability to think logically about the problem of crime. If we are filled with rage and hatred (which are often themselves a very understandable response to crime), it will be more difficult for us to imagine, and thus to allow, that someone who committed a bad act in the past might soon become (or might even have already been) a contributing member of society.
As of early 2008, the United States had the highest documented per capita rate of incarceration in the world. More than one in every one hundred adults here were in prison. Of Americans in prison, between twenty and forty percent were estimated to be infected with Hepatitis C virus, and the prevalence of prison rape contributed to a high rate of HIV infection as well. If we are able to say of at least some of these offenders that "There but for the grace of God go I," we might begin to consider the changes necessary to fix our broken system.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Vermont lawmakers have passed a bill quintupling the size of the state's Internet sex offender registry. The action Saturday,moves Vermont closer but still not into full compliance with a 2006 federal law designed to make responses to sex crimes more uniform around the country.
Many may believe that this bill would make communities safer, but expanding these registries to a wider range of offenses actually make enforcement and vigilance less effective, not more so. We have discussed this many times and posted evidence of this fact elsewhere in this blog.
The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Vermont has filed a lawsuit against the city of Barre on behalf of a man who has been told that he cannot live with his wife and children in the city solely because of his criminal record.
The suit was filed in Washington Superior Court on behalf of Chris Hagan, a Vermonter who moved to Barre with his family this spring. The lawsuit challenges the legality of a city ordinance passed last summer that bars individuals convicted of certain sex offenses from living in exclusion zones that encompass much of the city.
The ordinance does not distinguish between individuals who re-offend or bother their neighbors, and those who do not, the ACLU said in a news release issued this afternoon.
In 2001, Hagan was accused of sexual assault as a result of sexual contact with a 15-year-old. Hagan, 18 at the time of the alleged offense, pled guilty to a lesser crime in exchange for a reduced sentence. He served time in prison, during which he completed sex offender treatment. Hagan is not on parole or probation, and is classified “low risk” to re-offend.
After his release, Hagan attended community college, started a contracting business, and met and married his wife, Amy. He, his wife, and their two children moved to Barre this spring, not knowing of the residency restrictions. The family does not live in public housing, but in a privately owned apartment that they rent.
Even though Hagan has been a law-abiding citizen in Barre, the city notified him on April 23 that he had to move out of the apartment or face daily fines beginning next week. The ACLU’s lawsuit against the city includes a request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the city from fining Hagan. (which has now been granted for 60 days)
University of Pittsburgh School of Law : Jurist -Legal News and Research
NJ Supreme Court decision here (PDF)
New Jersey's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that towns cannot ban sex offenders from living near schools, parks, or other places where children gather.
The court struck down two municipal ordinances that restricted where convicted sex offenders could live, a ruling that invalidates similar laws in more than 100 other towns across the state. The two cases, in Cherry Hill and Galloway townships in southern New Jersey, highlighted Megan's Law, which requires convicted sex offenders to register their whereabouts with law enforcement.
The broader issue, though, centered on whether towns have the authority to pass ordinances that may conflict with state laws.
In its 6-0 decision, the Supreme Court echoed a 2008 appellate ruling that sided with the plaintiffs. Justice John E. Wallace Jr. did not participate.
All 50 states have some version of Megan's Law, but the cases decided Thursday are the first of their type to reach a state Supreme Court, said Frank Corrado, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who represented the unidentified plaintiff in Galloway Township. The ACLU filed a lawsuit in Vermont this week challenging a similar ordinance in the town of Barre, near Montpelier.
"We continue to feel these laws are counterproductive and don't accomplish their purpose," Corrado said Thursday. "There's no real connection between limiting where someone can live and a sex offense occurring in a park or public place."
Stratis said supporters of the ordinances will now have to rely on the state Legislature to expand Megan's Law or explicitly authorize towns to craft their own rules. Lawmakers are expected to revisit several bills that have been on hold pending the Supreme Court ruling.
Iowa's legislature recently revised a state law to relax restrictions on where lower-risk sex offenders can live, but also created buffer zones that prevent them from entering areas where children congregate.
Under Megan's Law, convicted sex offenders may only live in a residence approved by a parole officer, and must notify authorities when they change addresses and employment. The law forbids anyone from using an offender's criminal record to deny housing.
Both New Jersey towns have ordinances that prohibit sex offenders convicted of offenses against minors from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds and day care centers. In all, about 120 towns in New Jersey have passes similar ordinances.
The Galloway Township case involved a Stockton College student who had served two years' probation for criminal sexual contact committed when he was 15 against a 13-year-old girl. He was designated under Megan's Law as a Tier I offender, meaning he was considered to have the lowest risk of re-offense.
The township sent him a notice telling him he could not live on campus since his dorm was within 2,500 feet of a day care center.
The two plaintiffs in the Cherry Hill case, James Barclay and Jeffrey Finguerra, moved into a motel within 2,500 feet of Camden Catholic High School while they awaited approval for a new residence from their parole officers. The township found them guilty of violating the ordinance and fined them.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
(See earlier story : http://constitutionalfights.wordpress.com/2009/05/04/rulings-affect-sex-offender-registry/)
Both motions for dismissal were prompted by an Indiana Supreme Court decision handed down last Thursday in a similar case involving Richard Wallace, a convicted sex offender. Patterson is a convicted violent offender. Both were required to register under Indiana law.
In both cases, they were charged, convicted and had served their sentence for their crime before the requirement for them to register was enacted. In Wallace's case, it was the requirement to register as a sex offender, in Patterson's, as a violent offender.
The defense motion to dismiss pointed out, "The Indiana Constitution provides that 'no ex post facto law ... shall ever be passed.'" "Ex post facto" is a Latin term for "after the fact." A general explanation of an ex post facto law is a law that is retroactive, or that changes the consequences of a crime after the crime was committed.
In the Wallace case, he had already completed a sentence for child molesting before the Act was enacted. When the decision was made last Thursday, the court said Wallace's conviction violated the state constitution's prohibition of retroactive laws.
The state's motion requested the court dismiss the case for the reason that it cannot proceed with prosecution due to the recent Indiana Supreme Court decision in Wallace v. State.
Prosecutor Jarrod Holtsclaw said he had read the Wallace decision. "We have no choice," said Holtsclaw. "The Indiana Supreme Court does have the final say on Indiana laws. Unless it's taken to the United States Supreme Court, we have to abide by the Indiana Supreme Court's decision."
Holtsclaw said most people in Indiana's judicial arena have been waiting on this decision for quite some time.
Not only does the ruling affect the Patterson case, but it is expected to affect many other cases in the state.
"This could affect hundreds, maybe thousands, of other cases. We're trying to see how many other cases in Greene County will be affected. I've asked the Public Defender's Office to take a look at other cases," said Holtsclaw.
Knoxville Catholic High School’s Daniel Hood signed a football scholarship with the University of Tennessee on Tuesday afternoon. That the once sought-after recruit signed nearly three months after many of the nation’s elite players is a result of Hood’s role in the sexual assault of a female relative when he was 13 years old. But it is also a result of supporters who emphatically say that Hood, now 19, has earned the continuation of a second chance he was given by Catholic High School.
“We didn’t go about this lightly,” UT coach Lane Kiffin said in a statement Tuesday. “We spent a lot of time researching the issue and talking to a lot of people who are well-respected in the community. Everyone spoke very highly of Daniel. He’s a very bright young man who wants to move past this incident and be a good representative for the team, the university and the community.”
Kudos to University of Tennessee and their football program for giving this kid a chance in life !
We applaud them and encourage readers to send them notes of encouragement.
(See earlier story: http://constitutionalfights.wordpress.com/2009/05/04/sex-offender-wanted-to-serve-on-task-force/)
The offender is part of a task force that will make recommendations about laws governing where sex offenders can live.
A number of lawmakers in Tallahassee shook their heads in disbelief when they learned Broward County would appoint a registered sex offender to a board. The task force will contain one sex offender, two cops, home owners association and American Civil Liberties Union representatives, two members of the Broward League of Cities and representatives of a college and the state Department of Corrections.
Some of the people labeled sex offenders are not a wild-eyed predators that Kair and everybody else rightfully fears. Those offenders should be controlled. But others are stigmatized for life because of youthful indiscretions, usually made when they are drunk. They get caught for urinating in public or being in an Internet sex chat rooms. Somewhat victimless crimes.
The offender appointed to the task force appeared at the commission meeting.
He said he had recovered. His victim appeared with him, according to Mayor Stacy Ritter.
Do people like this – who paid their debt to society — deserve input into laws governing their life? You bet. “They are people too,” says Ritter.
We all agree. And we encourage other counties to do the same in including ex sex offenders on commissisons which formulate practical sex offender laws
Monday, May 4, 2009
Dull, then a 59-year-old Spring Grove grandmother, was arrested on child pornography charges on March 14, 2005, in the parking lot of the West Manchester Mall.
A Wal-Mart employee had contacted police about pictures Dull had dropped off for development. The photos were of Dull's young granddaughter at bath time.
The child abuse charges were later dropped at the direction of York County District Attorney Stan Rebert, who told the court at the time he did not think the requisite "intent" to distribute child pornography was present in the case. In court documents, Dull had maintained the pictures she took were innocent photographs intended only for the family album. "It was a shame that it happened," Dull's attorney, John Yaninek, said.
Yaninek said Dull was "unfortunately" caught up in the public battle against child pornography.
In 2007, Dull filed a federal civil lawsuit claiming West Manchester Township Police and York City Police had violated her constitutional rights. Specifically, Dull claimed officers used excessive force and violence when they arrested her.
Dull maintains she was handcuffed "tightly in a rough, vigorous and aggressive manner" and slammed into a parked car with enough force that her head bounced off the vehicle, resulting in injuries to her back.
She is seeking in excess of $200,000 plus punitive damages. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in U.S. Middle District Court in Harrisburg on Oct. 5, 2009.
U.S. Court of Appeals Case No: 08-2026(PDF)
District of North Dakota - Fargo
[PUBLISHED] [Benton, Author, with Loken, Chief Judge, and Melloy,Circuit Judge]
Criminal case - Criminal law and Sentencing. While the district court erred in finding defendant did not clearly invoke his right to silence, the error was harmless as officers scrupulously honored the right at the time it was invoked; statements defendant made nine days later, after again receiving his rights, were admissible; certain portions of testimony by victim's mother were inadmissible hearsay; however, the error did not require reversal as the testimony did not influence or had only the slightest influence on the verdict; evidence was sufficient to support conviction for attempted aggravated sexual abuse and attempted sexual abuse of a minor; jury instructions given in the case properly stated the elements of the offense, and defendant was not entitled to instruction requiring the jury to find that he attempted to engage in an anatomically specific act of attempted abuse; Adam Walsh Act did not violate defendant's equal protection rights, as the penalties associated with the Act serve Congress's purpose of deterring sex offenders and are rationally related to Congress's objective of protecting children.
Again, the foolish courts refuse to recognize these sanctions as the "punishments" that they are. Justices; live with these restrictions for the rest of your lives and tell us they are not punishment!
A pair of rulings by the Indiana Supreme Court might bring dramatic changes to who is listed on Indiana’s Sex and Violent Offender Registry.
One ruling deals with sex offenders who committed their crimes and were sentenced before the state’s sex offender registry laws existed. The other ruling, involving an Allen County case, deals with whether sex offenders’ listings on the registry are subject to further changes to the registry.
In the first ruling, the state’s highest court overturned Richard P. Wallace’s 2000 conviction for failing to register as a sex offender. Wallace was convicted of Class C felony child molesting in 1989, five years before Indiana passed its version of the Sex Offender Registration Act, known as Zachary’s Law. In 2001, the state legislature amended the law to include all people convicted of certain sex offenses regardless of their conviction date. And in 2003, Wallace’s ex-wife told authorities that Wallace never registered as a sex offender. Wallace was convicted, but he appealed, arguing in part that the changes to the registry violated the state’s Constitution by creating an “after the fact” punishment.
And the state’s high court agreed.
“Wallace was charged, convicted and served the sentence for his crime before the statutes collectively referred to as the Indiana Sex Offender Registration Act were enacted,” Justice Robert D. Rucker wrote.
The changes to the act violated the state’s Constitution by imposing burdens on Wallace that added punishment beyond what could have been imposed when his crime was committed, Rucker wrote.
In the second case, the court upheld a ruling by Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull involving Allen County resident Todd Jensen.
Gull had ruled that Jensen must register for life as a sexually violent predator even though the provision in the law that created that designation did not exist when he was convicted.
Jensen qualified as a “sexually violent predator” because of his conviction for vicarious sexual gratification, one of the crimes included under the designation by the state legislature in a 2006 change to the registry law.
He objected to the requirement and asked Gull to consider his case. She ruled he was a sexually violent predator and as such was subject to the changes in the registry. The 2006 changes contained no limitation on the date of conviction, according to court documents.
Jensen appealed, using in part arguments similar to the ones Wallace used, that the requirement created a punishment after the fact. In a split decision, the appellate court agreed and sent the case back to Gull to limit Jensen’s registration requirement to 10 years. But in a 3-2 decision, the state Supreme Court upheld Gull’s ruling that Jensen should have to register as a sexually violent predator for life.
For now, those tasked with monitoring the registry will wait to see what effect the rulings will have on how the registry is handled. But they are sure it will lead to some changes. “It’s going to create a lot of work in the next few weeks because we’ll have to go through each file and see what box these offenders are going to fit into,” said Allen County Cpl. Jeff Shimkus, who handles the registry for Allen County. He will wait to see how the Indiana Department of Correction interprets the ruling and wants to put it into practice. Shimkus also expects a meeting with the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office. The Indiana Department of Correction will comply with the changes, but officials there are still trying to figure out what it all means.
“We don’t know yet how many offenders this will affect,” said Doug Garrison, DOC spokesman. “If it means taking offenders off the registry, then that’s what we’ll do.”
U.S. Department of Justice; Office of Justice Programs; National Institute of Justice.
by Kristen M. Zgoba, Ph.D., and Karen Bachar.
In 1994, 7-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and murdered by Jesse Timmendequas, a sex offender who had been released after serving a maximum sentence. In response to this event and other sex crimes, community members successfully lobbied for the enactment of a law that requires sex offender registration and notification to the public that a sex offender is living and working in the community. Since the mid-1990s, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation, collectively referred to as “Megan’s Law.” Underlying these laws is the belief that notifying the public of the presence of sex offenders in their community allows citizens to take protective measures against sex offenders who live nearby.
Researchers for the first time have conducted an independent scientific assessment of the effects of the law in New Jersey. They analyzed data from before and after the law was enacted. The study’s primary goal was to examine the impact of the law on the state as a whole and each county within the state. (See “Limitations of the Study” for what researchers were unable to examine.) Researchers studying the impact of registration and notification laws in other states have found similar results.
- Sex offense rates in New Jersey have been on a consistent downward trend since 1985. During this period, rearrests for violent crime (whether sex crimes or not) also decreased. When the researchers examined the decline in each county and then examined the state as a whole, the resulting statistical analysis showed that the greatest rate of decline for sex offending occurred prior to 1994 and the least rate of decline occurred after 1995. Hence the data show that the greatest rate of decline in sex offending occurred prior to the passage and implementation of Megan’s Law.
- Megan’s Law did not reduce the number of rearrests for sex offenses, nor did it have any demonstrable effect on the time between when sex offenders were released from prison and the time they were rearrested for any new offense, such as a drug, theft or sex offense.
- The majority of sexual offenders sentenced in New Jersey are convicted of incest and child molestation. In more than half the cases, the victim and offender know each other. Megan’s Law did not have an effect on this pattern: The bulk of offenses and reoffenses committed both before and after the law remained child molestation and incest.
- Megan’s Law had no demonstrable effect on the number of victims involved in sexual offenses, i.e., the data show no reduction in the numbers of victims.
- Sexual offenders convicted after Megan’s Law was passed received shorter sentences than those convicted before the law; sentences before Megan’s Law were nearly twice as long as those afterwards. However, fewer sexual offenders have been paroled since the law was passed, due largely to changes in sentencing guidelines. As a result, offenders convicted before and after Megan’s Law serve approximately the same amount of time.
- Estimates of the cost show that New Jersey spent $555,565 to implement the law in 1995. In 2006, the estimated cost of implementing the law was approximately $3.9 million, based on data received from 15 of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
Broward County is looking for folks to serve on a task force about sex offender residency rules -- including a sex offender. Sex offenders, and other community members, can send a resume to email@example.com or fax to 954-357-6573 for consideration for membership by May 1. So will sex offenders need to create resumes that will include their crimes?
The task force will also include representatives from law enforcement, a homeowner's group and a mental health professional, among others. The task force's mission will be to make recommendations to county commissioners about residency restrictions for sex offenders. The rules are so restrictive in Miami-Dade that many are living under a bridge and in Broward they are concentrated in specific neighborhoods.
We urge sex offenders in Broward County to offer to join this task force, and to make a difference, and join in the battle against these laws.
Our society is full of advocates: advocates for the poor, advocates for the homeless, advocates for minorities. But where are the advocates for the sex offenders?
That’s a question that Dustin Shiers, a 20-year-old Saskatoon resident, may be asking himself right now. He was sentenced to a year in prison after downloading and sharing child pornography, and he is now waiting for a decision on whether his name will be added to a registry for sex offenders. Shiers was evaluated by a psychologist and scored very low on various intellectual tests, which is one factor that might convince the judge to leave him off the registry. But I’d like to take a slightly different approach.
Last summer, at a philosophy conference, I attended a lecture on this issue by University of Alabama psychology professor Christopher Robinson. Among other things, he argued that the sex offender registry represents an arbitrary, double punishment of sex criminals and is applicable to too many offenses. For example, depending on the area, “sex offenders” can also include those guilty of streaking, burglary, surveillance, and kidnapping. Also, the fact that we register sex offenders but not, say, murderers, doesn’t make much sense. It might be explained by the strange taboo in society regarding sex, but that doesn’t make it any less irrational.
The issue of whether a certain person should be placed on a sex offender registry or whether such a registry should exist at all is difficult because it involves a unique type of punishment. While we may agree that rapists, who deprive their victims of freedom of choice, merit jail time – also a temporary deprival of freedom – how do we decide whether their names should be put on a list for the public to see?
As I see it, the sex offender registry is both excessive and not particularly useful. Especially in the case of those who have not committed sexual assault but consume child pornography – repulsive as it may be – the label “sex offender” is not an appropriate description; it suggests someone who has committed rape or assault, not someone like Dustin Shiers, who “ha[s] never been aggressive or sexual in any of his personal relationships.” To put him on a list for 20 years is disproportionate to his crime. While it could be argued that he is supporting the industry – keeping child porn sites alive by upping their page views – this link seems too indirect to hold him responsible for the pornography itself. Even if he never visited a single child porn site, the industry would still survive.
On the practical side, his trial and conviction have already been reported in the news. And who actually looks at these lists? (I did for the first time this morning, and found a bunch of shady-looking pictures from a shady-looking town near my home in New Jersey.) In the case of young children, you would hope that parents would not leave them with adults they do not know very well. And in the case of teenagers, it is unlikely that a 15-year-old is going to pull up the National Sex Offender Registry to make sure his cool new 20-year-old friend isn’t into child porn.
A registry for rapists and those who have committed violent crimes may be justified, but I haven’t taken a stand on that issue here. But in the case of other crimes, we should ditch the list – it’s an unwarranted punishment that serves little purpose.
About half of Washington County's 111 registered sex offenders are waiting on the state's Supreme Court to decide if tougher reporting requirements enacted last year will stand.
Washington County Public Defender Ray Smith said 50 to 60 local sex offenders challenged the 2008 law, which required all sex offenders to be reclassified under a new three-tier system.
That system mandates longer reporting times and increased community notifications for many offenders once considered low-level. Three local individuals set to fall off the registry this year are now subject to five additional years of reporting because of the change.
"Judge (Susan) Boyer and (Ed) Lane both denied our motions that this should not apply to anyone convicted and sentenced prior to when this went into effect," Smith said. "The 4th District Court of Appeals also denied our motion. It's now up to the Supreme Court to decide if this is constitutional or not.
"I can't see how it can be constitutional. How can you change the rules in the middle of the game?" Smith said.
With the exception of those who have moved away, every person who was ever registered as a sex offender in Washington County remains on the sheriff's registry.
Prior to the change, Washington County had 20 sexual predators, the most serious offenders under the old system. There are now 42 individuals labeled in the "most serious" tier III category.
Smith said the new system lumps many low-level offenders in with the most serious offenders. The new law would require individuals who had previous reporting requirements for 10 years to report for life.
Under the old law, judges held special hearings and determined the level of restrictions for offenders on an individual basis. Restrictions are now mandated and based on the type of offense.