Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fighting Ohio House Bill 77 - Reclassification of Sex Offenders

This is a letter we sent today to the Ohio Representatives on the eve of the Criminal Justice Committee hearing of Wed, Feb 9th, 2011. We urge all readers to write, email and call the Representatives listed on the previous posting to strongly oppose this House Bill 77:


I lead an organization named ConstitutionalFights which strongly opposes House Bill 77, introduced by Rep. Hackett. This bill will come before the House Criminal Justice Committee on Wed. Feb, 9, 2011.

HR 77 is the Legislature's latest attempt to re-classify citizens who have a sex offense conviction in their past. We strongly urge you to oppose advancement of this bill.

The intent of HR 77 is very similar to that of Senate Bill 10, which was ruled as a constitutional violation on June 3, 2010 by the Ohio Supreme Court in Bodyke vs, Ohio ( R.C. Chapter 2950 — Sex offenders — R.C. 2950.031 and2950.032 violate separation of powers by requiring executive branch to reclassify sex offenders already classified by court order).

The difference with HR 77 is that it orders all affected citizens to appear in court for a second sex offender classification hearing.
This is an attempt to bypass the Separation of Powers violation.

But in the 2010 Ohio Supreme Court ruling, the challenges of Due Process, Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto violations were not
even addressed by the Court. Had these challenges been decided, they would certainly have resulted in similar nullification of the law.

HR 77 requires any citizen with a sex offense who had not matriculated off the sex offender registry by January 1, 2008 to appear before a Court for a second sex offender classification hearing. A majority of these individuals had fulfilled all requirements put upon them by the sex offender laws in place at the time of their conviction or plea. To haul them back into Court for a new classification hearing where a new set of registry requirements would be imposed is a violation of the Ohio and U.S. Constitutions. This bill violates the Due Process, Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto clauses of our Constitutional rights.

In addition to the constitutional violations of any law which attempts to retroactively reclassify offenders and to impose new and more stringent sex offender registry requirements, there are several other factors which our Legislature must consider when drafting sex offender legislation.

Firstly, there is no empirical or statistical data or evidence to support the contention that public sex offender registries have any
effect on recidivism or public safety. In fact, the only data correlating these two factors is in opposition to popular conception.
Publicly-accessible sex offender registries actually serve to isolate humiliate individuals to the point where they cannot build family and social support systems necessary to live productive and law-abiding lives. Along with residency restrictions, these public registries are no less than a Scarlet Letter which brands individuals, often
for a lifetime from normal social life and interaction.

Public sex offender registries do not prevent crimes. National media sensationalistic news reports of hideous sex offenses actually support this contention. In recent years, the highest profile news stories of sex offenses have involved men who were actively compliant registered sex offenders. These registries are simply a means for legislators to appear tough on sex crimes and an excuse for the public to feel better.
But the harm they do in the lives and families of tens of thousands of Ohio citizens caught up in the registry net is dramatic.

A popular myth is that sex offenders have a high recidivism rate. The statistical data proves this to be false. The U.S. Department of Justice statistics refute this myth. USDOJ data reports that "Recidivism Rates of Sexual Offenders (5.3% re-arrested, 3.3% of Child victimizers re-arrested)"

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation study, "Ten-Year Recidivism Follow-Up Of 1989 Sex Offender Releases", concludes that the recidivism rate for child -victim sex offenders (outside family) for a new sex-related crime in Ohio is 8.7%. The recidivism rate for all sex offenders for a new sex-related crime in Ohio is 8.0%.

Numerous other studies have reported similar data. I can provide official sources.

Finally, this is just morally unjust. Most of the individuals who would be affected by legislation such as HB 77 are those who made a terrible error in their lives many years ago (often times 10 -20 years ago).
They have been living law-abiding, productive lives in the years since they served their debt to society. All of us make mistakes in our lives, yet sex offenders are the only group to which we give no second chance. If the laws are in place at the time of conviction, we have no argument. But imposing new laws in order to recapture those who completed their obligations many years ago is simply immoral and wrong.

I could continue with supporting arguments but in an effort to be concise, I will conclude. I would welcome the opportunity to provide additional supporting information to the Committee members
for their consideration in these hearings. After the 2010 Ohio Supreme Court ruling (Bodyke vs, Ohio) which we fought for 3 years, we have extensive experience in studying sex offender laws, their effects, and the related empirical data within Ohio and throughout the nation.

We urge you to strongly oppose House Bill 77 and any future legislation which attempts to retroactively classify those who have long since satisfied all registration requirements of their offenses.