Thursday, August 6, 2009

WA Sex Offender Registry Signed : 2009 Changes to Washington's Sex Offender Registration Laws.

Critics of sex offender registries have expressed concern over the impact they have on the privacy rights of individuals and have questioned the inherent fairness of punishing someone who has already served their court mandated sentence. Several states have raised questions about the constitutionality of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act and, to date, no states have received approval of their programs from the federal government.

Implementing Washington's on-line database also raises important questions. With the new classification system, offenders in the state who were considered low level offenders may now be reclassified at a higher level. This could mean that people who have been living peacefully in neighborhoods for years will have their pictures sent out to schools, community organizations and others as part of the state's community notification requirement.

Even if offenders are not classified at higher levels, their friends, co-workers and neighbors now will be able to search for their names on-line and find out whether they have ever been convicted of a sex crime. The longer registration periods mean those wishing to put a mistake from their past behind them will have more difficulty moving on with their lives - and, in turn, will be forced to suffer the stigma of being a registered sex offender for greater lengths of time (in most cases, for their lifetimes).

There is also a legitimate concern that the registry could be used as a means to harass, threaten or even harm those listed in the database. There have been cases in other states where people have used the information in sex offender registries to do just that, or even worse.