Monday, November 24, 2008

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act and the Commerce Clause


John Marshall Law School, Chicago

In 2006, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act ("SORNA") created a new federal crime of "failure to register" which is punishable by up to ten years imprisonment. Since that time, sex offenders across the country have been prosecuted even though the offenders had no prior connection to the federal criminal justice system. For almost all of the prosecutions under SORNA, the argued jurisdictional basis for federal prosecution has been that the sex offender travelled across state lines. Based upon this travel, which is an element of the crime of failure to register, the government has argued that the new registration crime is justified under Commerce Clause authority. An overwhelming majority of courts that have addressed Commerce Clause challenges have accepted the government's argument that interstate travel is a sufficient jurisdictional hook. However, a careful examination of existing Commerce Clause law demonstrates that these courts are mistaken. For the Commerce Clause to have any meaning and for the decisions in Lopez and Morrison to make sense, the alleged interstate travel must be connected to the underlying offense in fact and time. Despite the limitations of prior Supreme Court precedent, courts have enabled the government to prosecute sex offenders who crossed state lines years before SORNA was even enacted. Further, courts have not required any showing that the travel had any connection to the alleged offense of failing to register. While some have argued that the decision in Raich effectively ended the federalism revolution, SORNA expands federal jurisdiction into entirely new territory. As a result, this article concludes that courts should dismiss most indictments under SORNA based upon a lack of federal jurisdiction and/or Congress should amend SORNA to properly reflect the jurisdiction authorized under existing precedent.

Erasing Rape - Media Hype an Attack on Sexual-Assault Research

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Rather old article, but still interesting, IMO.

By Paula Kamen

According to author Katie Roiphe, acquaintance rape is just a term radical feminists use to describe a night that you regret. She made this argument in a New York Times op-ed in 1991, and made it again in a New York Times Magazine cover story (6/13/93), labeled "Rape Hype."

The magazine piece was an excerpt from her new book, The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism on Campus, which was sympathetically reviewed by the Times' Christopher Lehmann-Haupt (9/16/93), who praised Roiphe's "courage." It was reviewed again (favorably) on the front page of the New York Times book review section (9/18/93)--perhaps the most coveted piece of newsprint in publishing.

Roiphe's thesis is that the prevalence of rape is exaggerated by feminists, who are motivated more by fear of sex than by a real threat of sexual violence. In her book and in her "Rape Hype" article, she focuses on a study of sexual assault that found, as she describes it, that "one in four women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape." Roiphe criticizes this study in an attempt to suggest that rape is not common on campuses, and at the same time to argue that feminists have exaggerated its frequency by using an overly broad definition of rape.

The actual study that Roiphe's critique focuses on, however, provides convincing evidence that neither of these arguments is true. In her writings, Roiphe gives no indication of having read the study she attacks, citing instead polemical attacks on the study published in right-wing periodicals.

The study in question is a nationwide survey published in 1987 by psychologist Mary Koss, then at Ohio's Kent State University and now at the University of Arizona's medical school. The study, financed by the National Institute of Mental Health and published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (Vol. 55 No. 2), surveyed a cross-section of college students about a variety of different types of sexual aggression. The most widely cited finding of this survey is that 28 percent of female respondents had been the victims of rape or attempted rape.

To Roiphe, this "one-in-four" statistic "is measuring something elusive. It is measuring his word against hers in a world where words hardly exist." She cites the study as her prime evidence that the definition of rape "has stretched beyond bruises and knives, threats of death or violence to include emotional pressure and the influence of alcohol."
In fact, Koss does not include "emotional pressure" in the definition of rape; she has a separate category, clearly labeled, for women who have experienced non-criminal "sexual coercion." The definition of rape she used in her survey came not from "campus feminists" but from the Ohio penal code, which (like many other state's laws) defines rape as sexual intercourse when "the offender purposely compels the other person to submit by force or threat of force [or] for the purpose of preventing resistance the offender substantially impairs the other person's judgment or control by administering any drug or intoxicant to the other person."

Under this legal definition of rape, Koss found that 15 percent of women had been raped, with 28 percent experiencing either rape or attempted rape. Eleven percent of women had been raped through force or the threat of harm, with 19 percent indicating either completed or attempted forcible rape.

As Koss points out in her report, these findings match those of other scientific surveys of the issue. A 1989 study at the University of Illinois reported that 16 percent of women students surveyed had been victims of criminal sexual assault, as defined by state statutes. In a federally funded nationwide survey conducted by the National Victims Center in 1992, 14 percent of women reported a completed rape, not counting cases where the victim was unable to consent.

Roiphe ridicules those who would call this "epidemic" or "crisis" by dismissing the numbers as "a matter of opinion, not a matter of mathematical fact." She makes this dismissal without ever having talked to Koss; when Koss suggested to a New York Times fact-checker that Roiphe ought to have interviewed her, she was promised a call from an editor, which never came. (Efforts by Extra! to reach Roiphe for comment were, at press time, unsuccessful.)

Nor does she ever indicate that she has read Koss' study, and instead appears to rely on second-hand accounts written by a conservative critic, Berkeley professor Neil Gilbert. When her book cites a question from the survey, it is cited "according to Gilbert"; the footnotes gives no reference to the published study, but instead refer readers to an article Gilbert wrote for the publication Society (5-6/92).

Society is a social science magazine that has moved sharply to the right under editor Irving Louis Horowitz. (In a letter of resignation from the magazine's board, sociologist Herbert Gans charged that the articles Horowitz published "were for the most part standard ideological assertions of the right and belong in journals devoted to such assertions"--City Pages.)

Though Gilbert has never published anything about rape in a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal, he has written other critiques of Koss' research for the right-wing press, such as the neo-conservative Public Interest (Spring '91) and the Wall Street Journal op-ed page (6/27/91, 6/29/93). Gilbert's widely cited Public Interest article contained grave inaccuracies regarding Koss' data--inaccurately charging that Koss included "emotional coercion" as part of the definition of rape, for example.

Gilbert's 1993 Wall Street Journal commentary, his stated goal is to defeat the Violence Against Women Act, which mainly deals with street crime and domestic violence. A 1991 press release issued by the University of California at Berkeley boasted that "partly as a result of Gilbert's research, Governor Deukmajian last year cancelled all state funding for the school-based [child sex abuse] prevention programs."

Despite Gilbert's partisan, non-academic attacks on Koss' rigorously documented, peer-reviewed research, it is often Gilbert who is considered a scholar in press accounts and Koss who is treated as an ideologue. Even the Chronicle of Higher Education used this frame in a headline on the debate (2/6/92): "A Berkeley Scholar Clashes with Feminists Over Validity of Their Research on Date Rape."

The point Gilbert makes most frequently against Koss is that 73 percent of the women identified by Koss as having been raped do not label their experience as rape. This critique is taken up by Roiphe: "These are not self-proclaimed victims, then," she writes in her book, "they are victims according to someone else." Other writers intent on debunking acquaintance rape "hysteria" have also made the charge; a Washington Post op-ed (5/31/92) complained, "Do these feminists believe women, or do they believe women need expert guidance to know when they're raped?"

Koss explains that she included these women in her figures because of the prevailing public misconceptions about the legal definition of rape. Particularly in 1985, when the survey was conducted, awareness that an attack by an acquaintance was legally rape was much lower. In a more recent study by Baltimore's Towson State University, 14 percent of the students surveyed labeled an experience in their past as "rape," "sexual assault" or "date rape."

But the implication by Gilbert and others that because women do not use the word "rape," their experience is therefore trivial, is simply false. According to the Koss study, of all respondents who reported an incidence of legally defined rape (whether or not they used the term), 30 percent considered suicide afterward, 31 percent sought help from a therapist and 82 percent said the experience had changed them. Only 11 percent reported that they "don't feel victimized."

Roiphe also follows Gilbert in asserting that the small number of rapes reported to police discredits Koss' research. In doing so, she overlooks the large body of research about the high rate of unreported rapes and the criminal justice system's failure to take date rape seriously. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported in May 1993 that an estimated 84 percent of rapes are never reported, with only 2 percent of rapes resulting in convictions. (This report was largely ignored by national media.)

One of Koss' crucial findings is that the perpetrator in 80 percent of all rapes was someone who knew the victim. Yet Roiphe has her own definition of what constitutes a "real" rape. "It's hard to watch the silent faces of young Bosnian girls, their words haltingly translated, as they tell of brutal rapes; or to read accounts of a suburban teenager raped and beaten while walking home from a shopping mall."

While Roiphe accuses feminists of promoting old-fashioned ideas about sex, her presentation of rape as something that only occurs when strangers attack "young" (i.e., virginal) women sets the understanding of sexual assault back decades. It is writers like Roiphe, who reject documented proof of the existence of acquaintance rape without even studying the data, that deserve her own charge of having a "utopian vision of sexual relations."

Paula Kamen, a Chicago-based writer, is the author of Feminist Fatale.

GA - Case pits church volunteering against protection of children

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Most Georgians probably believe that children should be protected from known sexual predators, and they would also believe that there should be few restrictions on how a person participates in their church activities.

A recent change to state law puts those two notions on a collision course, and a federal judge must pick a side.

For Lori Collins, not being able to volunteer or give her testimonials in church amounts to not only inconvenience but also an infringement on her right to be true to her religion.

"I'm required by my faith to do these things. Christ has made us a fisher of men," she said.

On the other side is Gov. Sonny Perdue, whose son is a minister and who has led prayer sessions himself, most notably to end the drought.

"The state's foremost obligation is to keep the people of Georgia safe," he said about the law in 2006. "This includes doing everything within our power to keep sexual predators away from children."
- Spoken like a true hypocrite!  What would Jesus do?

The case of the church volunteering prohibition is part of a lawsuit filed by the Southern Center for Human Rights on behalf of the lead plaintiff, Wendy Whitaker of Harlem, Ga. She is on the sex-offender registry for something that is no longer illegal -- consensual sex between a 17-year-old, her, and a 15-year-old.

Now 29, Whitaker has been ordered to move from the home her husband owns because it's too close to a daycare center. Friday, the Southern Center asked a state judge to keep her in the home.

That's after the federal judge, Clarence Cooper, rejected Whitaker's request when he considered it Nov. 13, but he delayed any decision on the church-volunteering part of the suit while he smokes it over more.

Cooper still hasn't ruled on another aspect of the case, whether living within 1,000 feet of school bus stops should be illegal for the 10,000 people on the state's sexual-offenders registry. He has only accepted a temporary agreement against enforcing it.

A mapmaker testified in Cooper's court that in Columbia County where Whitaker lives, just 606 of the 51,000 parcels of land could legally be used for housing because of the churches, daycare centers and 5,300 bus stops.

However, he acknowledged under cross-examination that 50 people on the registry had found places to live in the county.

The point of the law's change, which took effect July 1, is to keep children from becoming vulnerable at church, especially when around adults with authority, according to Joseph Drolet of the Georgia Attorney General's Office. A Sunday school teacher, choir director or even someone who helps set up the sound equipment takes on a level of authority in a child's eye, he said.

Abuse of authority wasn't conjecture in Collins' case. She was 39 when she had a party at her home with flowing alcohol and had sex with a minor.

"People who are ministers are looked up to," Drolet said to her. "There is a position of trust."

At one point, she broke down crying on the witness stand as she recounted how the volunteering prohibition ended the sermons she would deliver at churches around the state and the leadership role she had to give up in a ministry program.

She became a licensed minister since her conviction and often goes back to prison to speak to inmates about getting their lives together. The commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections encouraged it.

That's because ex-cons exposed to the Bible while behind bars are significantly less likely to commit another crime, according to Andrea Shelton of Heartbound Ministry which sends chaplains to all 37 state prisons.

"If an inmate is involved with studying the word of God while incarcerated, the recidivism rate drops 50 percent," she said, adding that the more involved in church activities, the more stability an ex-con has.

The law hasn't prevented Collins from writing her religious message to be read in juvenile detention facilities, and Drolet notes that it doesn't keep her from worshiping as long as she limits her participation to prayer, listening and following a preacher's lead.

The U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights begins with the First Amendment's opening that government "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." which many scholars indicate how important freedom of religion is. The Southern Center's lawyers argue that the state law does hamper that free exercise thereof.

Cooper started his career as a legal-aid lawyer for a year and was a prosecutor for six years after a stint in the Army. He was a judge at three levels in the state system before President Clinton elevated him to the federal bench in 1994. He is perhaps most noted for two cases, one dealing with a predator of children and one dealing with religion. He presided in the case of Wayne Williams who was convicted of molesting and murdering a series of children in Atlanta, and he ruled against Cobb County for putting stickers in textbooks questioning the theory of evolution.

As these two issues compete in one case, Cooper will draw upon his experience as he considers the lawsuit. Who knows, he may even resort to prayer.

(Walter Jones is the bureau chief for the Morris News Service in Atlanta.)

GA - Woman can stay in her home while she sues over sex-offender law

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By BILL RANKIN - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Wendy Whitaker, the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s sex-offender law, can spend Thanksgiving in her home.

On Monday, a Columbia County judge signed an order giving Whitaker a reprieve. She had been ordered to leave her home outside of Augusta by Thanksgiving because it is within 1,000 feet of a child care center and a church.

Whitaker, 29, is on the sex-offender registry for having oral sex with a high school classmate three weeks before his 16th birthday. Whitaker had just turned 17. She pleaded guilty to sodomy and received five years’ probation.

The order allows Whitaker to stay in her home while her lawsuit makes its way through the court system. On Friday, she filed suit in Columbia County, seeking to have her name eliminated from the registry on grounds that making Whitaker register as a sex offender is cruel and unusual punishment, The suit also sought a halt to her removal from her home in Harlem.

“This is a great relief to Ms. Whitaker,” her lawyer, Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights, said. “She is grateful she will be able to stay in her home for the Thanksgiving holiday and thereafter while the case is being litigated.”

In a separate, federal lawsuit filed in 2006, Whitaker and other plaintiffs are seeking to overturn the state law’s provisions that make it a crime for sex offenders to live or work within 1,000 feet of places children congregate. That case is pending in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

400 teens arrested for flirting

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EGYPTIAN police have rounded up hundreds of teenage boys in Cairo in a day-long crackdown on sexual harassment.

"We have arrested a large number of boys who were flirting with girls," Cairo's police director Faruq Lashin said.

About 400 teenagers, aged between 15 and 17, were arrested on Wednesday and will be brought before a judge, he said.

Police targeted teenagers in front of schools, universities and along the Nile's banks, he said.

The teenagers were expected to be fined, a police official said.

Women's rights groups in Egypt have long campaigned against sexual harassment and assault in Cairo, accusing police of ignoring the phenomenon.

On Monday, a Cairo court jailed a teenager for one year for sexually assaulting two women.

Another teenager, a 17 year old, is facing trial on the same charge.

At least 34 men were arrested after they allegedly assaulted women in an affluent Cairo neighbourhood during a Muslim holiday in January.

Such convictions are relatively rare in Egypt, which does not have a law defining sexual harassment, but a court in October sentenced a man to three years in jail for groping a woman.

Women's rights activists welcomed that ruling and said it was unprecedented in Egypt.

The Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights (ECWR) issued a survey this summer saying 83 per cent of Egyptian women and 98 per cent of foreign women in Egypt had experienced sexual harassment.

The study said only 12 per cent of the 2500 women who reported cases of sexual harassment to ECWR went to the police with their complaint.

Comparing Internet Safety Videos

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By: Luke Gilkerson

Let’s play a little comparison game. I’ve used some of these videos in previous posts, but when we see them side by side, they cause us to ask good questions about what the real threat of Internet predators is really all about.

What impressions you are left with after watching each video?

One of these things is not like the other . . .

Video #1: The Allure of Sugar Plum (about 1 minute)

Video #2: Clare Thought She Knew (about 3 Minutes)

Video #3: Virtual Global Task Force (about 1 minute)

Compare and Contrast

To start, let’s compare the messages of the first two videos. First, some similarities: both depict younger girls, both had unmonitored Internet access at home, and both make contact with an Internet predator.

But the differences are stark. In the first video the adult predator deceives the girl by lying about his age, gender and intentions in order to lure her out of her house. In the second video there is no hint of these deceptions: the predator is clear about whom he is and his intentions.

This difference highlights one of the major misconceptions about online predators: rarely do predators deceive their victims about their age, gender, and “romantic” intentions. Children are rarely lured into a predator’s trap with this sort of deception. Instead, a predator usually appeals to a young person’s desire to be appreciated and understood and will usually appeal to the young person’s inclination for risk-taking and sexual relations (much like the second video depicts).

America’s forgotten freedoms

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A survey by the First Amendment Center in the US has reached the shocking conclusion that most American citizens don’t know the five basic freedoms enshrined in the constitution.

The study found that no more than 3% of Americans remember “petition” among the First Amendment’s five basic freedoms.

However, freedom of speech was remembered by the majority of respondents - 56%.

The others freedoms enshrined in the constitution appeared to have made little impression: freedom of religion was named by 15%; the same percentage remembered press freedom as a constitutional right while just 14% knew they had a right to assembly.

The number of respondents who remembered freedom of speech was the lowest in the history of the survey, conducted each year for the past eleven years.

What makes this year’s results more shocking is that 4 out of 10 people questioned could not name any freedom at all.

Whatever freedoms the constitution of the country may guarantee, it does not matter much since these rights are neither remembered nor needed as such.

The findings indicate that modern Americans do not think along the same lines as the Founders of the U.S.

Nowadays, it would seem, many Americans do not consider their basic rights and freedoms inalienable and are ready to delegate them to state or federal officials.

More than two centuries ago it did not take long for the Founders of the United States of America to realize the necessity of preserving individual freedoms in a system of individual states with a strong federal governmental centre.

In 1791, just four years after the declaration in 1787 of the American Constitution, the states adopted the First Amendment together with the Bill of Rights to guarantee that the strong federal government would not trample on basic individual rights and freedoms.

Moreover, there are rights totally forgotten by the American society, meaning most Americans are not familiar with the freedoms guaranteed by the American Constitution.

Freedom of speech and religion are among the first but liberties introduced to the American Constitution by the Bill of Rights. Traditionally, most of the questioned Americans recalled them. But regarding freedom of the press, freedom to assemble and to petition - these seem to be lost in oblivion.

The annual State of the First Amendment survey, held by the First Amendment Center (, questions adult Americans on their attitude towards the rights spelled out in the First Amendment. This year it found the following:

  • 39% would extend to subscription cable and satellite television the government’s current authority to regulate content on over-the-air broadcast television.
  • 54% would continue IRS regulations that bar religious leaders from openly endorsing political candidates from the pulpit without endangering the tax-exempt status of their organizations.
  • 66% say the government should be able to require television broadcasters to offer an equal allotment of time to conservative and liberal broadcasters; 62% would apply that same requirement to newspapers, which never have had content regulated by the government.
  • 38% would permit government to require broadcasters to report a specified amount of “positive news” in return for licenses to operate.
  • 31% would not permit musicians to sing songs with lyrics that others might find offensive.
  • 68% favor government restrictions on campaign contributions by private companies, and 55% favor such limits on amounts individuals can contribute to someone else’s campaign.

Thus, a large number of Americans concede that in specific cases the federal government can be involved or even control individual freedoms.

The most shocking conclusion of the survey was that most of Americans could not name the five basic freedoms enshrined in the constitution.

FL - Residency restrictions a challenge for police and sex offenders

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By Missy Diaz | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

In a nondescript office building off Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard in West Palm Beach, about a dozen men gather every Monday evening. There's a 36-year-old machinist, a 59-year-old engineer, a 45-year-old handyman.

Despite their diverse backgrounds, they share a common label: registered sex offender.

Most come to licensed mental health counselor Ben Taylor's weekly 90-minute sessions as part of court-ordered therapy. Nearly all are on probation. They discuss a host of topics, including their crimes, the consequences and techniques to keep from re-offending. More frequently, the talk turns to residency restrictions and how finding a place to live, in many ways, is the harshest part of their punishment.

After months of looking, 47-year-old financial analyst Julian and his wife recently bought a home in Royal Palm Beach. In 2002 he tried to solicit a 14-year-old girl online. It turned out to be a police officer. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years of probation.

"A lot of houses we could afford to buy, but I couldn't live in them because I couldn't get approval [from my probation officer]," he said. "I was sending a sheet of houses every day to my probation officer to see which ones qualified and which ones did not."

Figuring out the hodgepodge of residency restrictions for Florida sex offenders is complicated.

For people convicted on or after Oct. 1, 2004, state law prohibits them from living within 1,000 feet of any school, day care center, park or playground. In 2006, Palm Beach County enacted its own law with a stricter 2,500-foot restriction. Fifteen of Palm Beach County's municipalities have their own laws, according to the Sheriff's Office, while the others rely on the state or county laws.

For local law enforcement assigned to keep track of the county's registered sex offenders, it's a challenging task.

"It's very time-consuming," said Detective Larry Wood of the sheriff's Sexual Predator and Offender Tracking Unit.

So haphazard are the restrictions, state Sen. Dave Aronberg (Email), D- Greenacres, tried in the last legislative session to pass a bill creating one standardized, statewide 1,500-foot rule that would have also created a 24-hour child protection zone, banning loitering around schools, parks and libraries.

"[With the current restrictions] you can hang out at the bus stop but you can't be registered at an address near there," Aronberg said.

Aronberg's bill was blocked by legislators from Miami-Dade County who said it would weaken that county's 2,500-foot law, he said. He plans to try again next year.

The myriad municipal regulations resulted in a more dangerous situation, he said, by creating a homeless sex offender population and raising the absconder rate.

Supporting Aronberg's bill is Jill Levenson, a Lynn University Bachelor's, master's & online degrees associate professor of human services who wrote a report to the Legislature on the issue. She said residency restrictions prey upon the public's fear of "stranger danger."

Media coverage of cases like that of John Couey, convicted of the rape and murder of 9-year old Jessica Lunsford in 2005, gives the public the perception that such crimes are not unusual, she said.

"Residency restrictions sound good in theory and are very well-intended, but they don't really address the most common types of situations children are abused in," she said. "Children are much more likely to be sexually abused by someone they know and trust."

By diminishing housing availability, the restrictions contribute to an increase in transience, homelessness and instability, all of which are associated with an increased risk of offending again, Levenson said.

Taylor, the therapist, agrees. He has been working with offenders and predators for 19 years and says the restrictions hurt the wider community.

"When they are pushed out of the community, they often go back to bad behaviors," he said. "These are all feel-good laws that make no rhyme or reason."

Julian, the financial analyst, lived in North Palm Beach at the time of his crime but months after his plea authorities told him he was not welcome. A day care center was one block away.

For three months, he and his wife lived in a hotel. Eventually they bought a home in unincorporated Palm Beach County, which has a 2,500-foot residency ban from any place children congregate, such as bus stops, parks and libraries.

Rising taxes and insurance outpriced the couple so they sold the home and rented in West Palm Beach, which this year enacted a 1,500-foot rule. After six months, Julian found their current Royal Palm Beach home. But he lives in fear his neighbors will discover his secret.

"I have to try and keep everything hidden to keep from being shot down in the street, my house being vandalized or burnt down," he said. At his prior homes, the mailbox repeatedly was vandalized and someone circulated fliers with his name and picture. Now he owns a Doberman professionally trained to protect.

"I just want to live my life and move on. I don't want people to pre-judge me ... You can meet me and talk to me and have one opinion of me, but if you know I'm on the [sex offender] registry beforehand, you're going to have a different opinion of me already. I understand that."

GA - Homeless, Jobless Rehabilitation - Banishment of sex offenders is unfair and ineffective

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By Jacob Sullum

When Georgia's legislature drew up a list of places where sex offenders were not allowed to live, the majority leader of the state House said he hoped the restrictions would be so intolerable that sex offenders "will want to move to another state." By overturning those restrictions, the Georgia Supreme Court has created an opportunity to reconsider the mindless harsher-is-better approach they exemplified, which is neither fair as a matter of criminal justice nor sensible in terms of public safety.

Despite all the talk of protecting children, registered sex offenders are not synonymous with predatory criminals, let alone child molesters. In Georgia they include many people who were guilty of nothing beyond consensual sex as teenagers.

Even if they have never demonstrated a propensity to abuse children, the 10,000 or so sex offenders covered by the registration requirement have to regularly report their whereabouts to local law enforcement officials, who in turn make the information publicly available. Failure to report triggers a prison sentence of at least 10 years.

Yet until the Georgia Supreme Court intervened, sex offenders also had a strong incentive not to register, since doing so enabled the government to enforce residence restrictions that made nearly all locations in urban areas off limits. The penalty for violating those restrictions was the same as the penalty for failing to register.

Georgia's law barred sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, church, day care center, or any other location where children might congregate, including parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, skating rinks, and school bus stops. Even if a sex offender managed to find a legal place to live, he could be ordered to move again and again, depending on how his neighbors decided to use their property.

Anthony Mann, the registered sex offender who successfully challenged Georgia's law, bought a house in Clayton County with his wife in 2003. At the time, it was a legal location. But then a day care center opened nearby, rendering it illegal.

"Under the terms of that statute," the state Supreme Court noted, "there is no place in Georgia where a registered sex offender can live without being continually at risk of being ejected." Concluding that the law "precludes appellant from having any reasonable investment-backed expectation in any property purchased as his private residence," the court unanimously ruled that it violated the Fifth Amendment's ban on uncompensated takings of private property.

Georgia's law also prevents Mann from working at the barbecue restaurant he co-owns, since it's within 1,000 feet of a day care center established after the business was opened. Because Mann did not present enough evidence of economic harm, the Georgia Supreme Court did not overturn the work restrictions, which have been challenged in federal court as well.

Constitutional issues aside, closing off employment opportunities for sex offenders, who already are handicapped by criminal records, is not exactly conducive to rehabilitation. Nor is forcing them to cluster in the boondocks, far from employers and treatment programs, or encouraging them to go underground.

In Iowa, which bars sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or day care centers, police and prosecutors have concluded that such residence restrictions do not prevent recidivism, since people can readily travel beyond their immediate neighborhoods, and that they discourage registration. After Iowa's law took effect, the number of sex offenders whose whereabouts were unknown more than doubled.

Last year the chief sponsor of Iowa's law, state Sen. Jerry Behn (R-Boone), conceded that he may have gotten a bit carried away. "If you draw a map, pretty soon you can make it so no area in town is available to live in," he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It would have been better if we had put it at 1,000 feet."

But who can be bothered to look at a map when there's important grandstanding to be done? "The bottom line," Behn explained, "is it's all about protecting children." Or seeming to.

© Copyright 2007 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

FL - Law Enforcement's Rule #1 To Fight Budget Cuts: Scare The Crap Out Of The Public

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Posted by Brian Tannebaum

If the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has to cut their budget by 18 million dollars, they may have to end Amber Alerts and Sex Offender Registry Notices.

The headline reads: "Declining state revenues could cause Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement to ax programs that keep our kids safe."

the story continues: "Amber Alerts could be a thing of the past in Florida. The program ended up on a list of things FDLE would get rid of if it was forced to cut its budget by 10 percent."

"The sex offender registry, where 44,000 people signed up to be notified when a sex offender moves near by, is also on the cut list."

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer is warning lawmakers that if FDLE was hit too hard by budget cuts, public safety would be at risk.

To put that in other words: "You touch our budget, good luck finding your missing kids and knowing if there's sex offenders in your neighborhood."


It's what's referred to as the "Parade of Horribles." Tell the public that their biggest fears will come true, and get them to rally.

It gets old. If there's one thing government agencies don't like to do, it's prioritize. Announce cuts in law enforcement, and the first talking point is that "public safety will be affected."


People are concerned about violent criminals, personal crimes like strong arm robbery, rape, and murder, and you know what, sometimes you just can't devote resources to hassling people selling flowers without a license. FDLE doesn't use their time for "selling flowers without a license" cases, but I trust they have some other program, department, or priority less important than missing kids or sex offenders.

So FDLE, you want to beat the drum that you won't be able notify the public about missing kids or sex offenders, good luck. Maybe you can spend that precious time looking for some credibility.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit

PA - Wanted Sex Offender Fires Shots At Blair County Police

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Altoona police pulled over a car at the intersection of 14th Street and 16th Avenue in the city early Saturday morning. Just moments later, John Ray, 36, jumped out of the car, took off down the block and started firing at police.

State police said Ray fired ine rounds at three Altoona police officers. Police did fire back, hitting Ray in both legs, the hip and left arm. Ray was told multiple times to drop his weapon, police said. He was taken into police custody. Police ran his fingerprints and found out he is a wanted Megan's Law offender from Philadelphia.

State police said Ray, who isn't even allowed to have possession of a gun, used a Russian-made Makarov 380 pistol. Police traced it back to Lancaster County where it was reported stolen.

Ray is registered as a sex offender on the Megan's Law Web site. He was convicted of aggravated indecent assault in 1991. He is wanted by Philadelphia police for not registering his new address, which is a violation of Megan's Law. State Police believe he has been living in Blair County for about a month now.

Ray is facing charges including criminal homicide, aggravated assault and a Megan's Law violation.

The female driver of the car Ray was in may also be facing charges in connection with the traffic violation, according to State police.