Thursday, March 29, 2012

LA - Louisiana sex law violates offenders' rights, federal judge rules

Original Article

I am sure Bobby Jindal is very angry that he was unable to "exorcise the demons," from his state.  Now the question is, will this judge and others see the same about the insane sex offender laws Mr. Jindal is trying to pass and knock them down as well?

03/29/2012

A Louisiana law violates the constitutional rights of people who were required to register as sex offenders after they were convicted of soliciting oral or anal sex for money, a federal judge ruled Thursday. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman said state lawmakers had no "rational basis" for requiring people to register as sex offenders if they were convicted of a "crime against nature by solicitation."

Feldman sided with nine anonymous plaintiffs who sued last year, saying they wouldn't have had to register as sex offenders if instead they had been convicted of soliciting sex for money under the state prostitution law.

Civil rights attorneys who filed the suit against Louisiana Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell and other state officials claim the law is unconstitutional and discriminatory, unfairly condemning sex acts traditionally associated with homosexuality.

Feldman said the plaintiffs proved they have been deprived of their equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

"The defendants fail to credibly serve up even one unique legitimating governmental interest that can rationally explain the registration requirement imposed on those convicted of Crime Against Nature by Solicitation," Feldman wrote. "The Court is left with no other conclusion but that the relationship between the classification is so shallow as to render the distinction wholly arbitrary."

Feldman gave the plaintiffs five days to submit a proposed judgment consistent with his decision. Plaintiffs' attorney Alexis Agathocleous said he and his colleagues were still reviewing the ruling and weighing their options but would, at a minimum, ask for the names of the nine anonymous plaintiffs to be removed from the sex offender registry.

"We will work with the court to sort out the precise details of the judgment in this case," said Agathocleous, an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.

Agathocleous said the ruling represents "powerful vindication" for the plaintiffs and a rebuke of a statute "borne of age-old animus."

Feldman said the issue before him "is not about approval or disapproval of sexual beliefs or mores."

"It is about the mandate of equality that is enshrined in the Constitution," he wrote.

A spokeswoman for Caldwell's office said she couldn't immediately comment on the ruling.

The state Legislature amended the 200-year-old law last year so that anyone convicted of a "crime against nature by solicitation" no longer will be required to register as a sex offender. But the change didn't apply to roughly 400 people who already had been convicted of the crime and were registered sex offenders.
- Why the hell not?  If they were forced to register due to this law, then they should be affected as well, or else it's another unconstitutional ex post facto law.

The state argued the plaintiffs didn't have a constitutionally protected right to privacy after being convicted of engaging in sex acts for money.

Gov. Bobby Jindal originally was named as a defendant in the suit, but the claims against him were dismissed last year.


NH - Sex Offender Management Bill Passes Senate: Hearing April 3 in House Criminal Justice Committee

Original Article

03/24/2012

By Chris Dornin

The Senate this month approved SB 277 (PDF, Listen) by overwhelming voice vote to create a blue ribbon commission of all the key stakeholders to study sex offender policies in depth, arguably for the first time. The bill received strong support in Senate Judiciary Committee, reaching the Senate floor with a 5-0 vote of endorsement.

A school superintendent once told me that sex offenders are the third rail of school politics, as in don’t touch it or you get flash cooked from the inside out. He meant people stop thinking when the topic comes up. Folks who want rational crime laws have a chance next week to make a vital difference on this fear-driven issue.

Come to the State House Tuesday morning, April 3, a little before 10 a.m. to speak on SB 277, which would inject some calm, deliberation, appropriate skepticism and reason into the debate over this unpopular group of former offenders. The public hearing is in Room 204 of the Legislative Office Building.

All around the country sex offender statutes are named for child murder victims, as in Jessica’s Law, Megan’s Law, the Jacob Wetterling Act and the Adam Walsh Act. We are beginning to understand that these reactionary laws to honor the memories of lost children do not make children any safer and may paradoxically endanger the public. They may also be unconstitutional. Two years ago the Maine Supreme Court ruled that the state’s public sex offender registry was an illegal retroactive punishment for many of its registrants.

The Ohio Supreme Court issued a similar decision in the summer of 2011 in the landmark Williams versus Ohio (PDF) case. The rape crisis centers in Cleveland and Texas intervened in support of the Ohio sex offenders. The lawyer for these victim advocates, Margie Slagle, argued that Ohio’s version of the Adam Walsh Act, passed in June 2007, is dangerous to the public because it “...fundamentally transformed classification, registration, and community notification requirements under Ohio's sex offender laws. In particular, the pre-AWA law classified adult sex offenders based on the individual's likelihood of committing future offenses and the offender's risk to the community. The AWA abandons risk based classifications for offense based classifications. While protecting Ohioans from sex offenders is a compelling interest- and indeed, is the core mission of each of the amici- none of the changes implemented as part of Ohio's AWA has been proven to achieve that goal. Research shows that the law's more burdensome requirements on law enforcement, the public, and sex offenders can cause higher levels of recidivism and thus pose increased danger to the community. More onerous sex offender registration and community notification laws threaten to harm the very people they are intended to protect and to undermine the goals of community safety and treatment of offenders. These laws perpetuate myths and create a false sense of security. Research demonstrates that victimization can be reduced when sex offenders successfully reenter the community. These changes also put law enforcement agencies, already in budgetary crises, in the position of spending precious dollars on monitoring low risk individuals with a limited impact on public safety. Thus, any argument that Ohio's AWA is simply a remedial law designed to protect children and the public from sexual abuse and sex crimes is seriously flawed. Ohio's AWA is not based on empirical evidence or proven research, but on fear and misinformation.”

Aware of these and similar problems, a number of states have set up permanent advisory commissions of experts on sex offender issues to propose science-based, reasonable policies on one of the most emotional issues facing lawmakers. Typically, such groups are called sex offender management boards, although their titles and duties vary from state to state. Most of them monitor and study the sentencing, incarceration, treatment, registration and community restriction policies and practices for sex offenders. At their best, these boards function at times like the New Hampshire Office of Legislative Budget Assistant in providing objective, data-rich recommendations.

The well-funded Pennsylvania board evaluates the risk posed by each sex offender and reserves active community notification for those deemed to be the highest threat. It’s a very small population, comparable to the offenders New Hampshire might civilly commit for an extra five years under our Child Predator Act passed in 2007.

The California management board studied the merits of imposing residency restrictions on sex offenders and talked the legislature out of using them. California voters went on to pass Proposition 83 (PDF) by referendum over the objections of most lawmakers. It effectively banned and evicted sex offenders from all the cities and drove up the rate of homelessness among sex offenders by 800 percent in the first year.

The California group learned from a study by the Minnesota sex offender management board, which reviewed the records in 224 sex offenses to see if residency restrictions might have prevented those crimes. The perpetrators never approached their victims near a park, pool, library, school or daycare center. Hearing this unexpected news, the Minnesota legislature rejected residency restrictions as a cure without a problem.

The proposed New Hampshire management board might choose to study the comparable sex offender policies here. In the Jennings versus Dover case three years ago, the Dover District Court found that city’s residency restriction unconstitutional. It drove half the sex offenders out of town in the first year. Several communities elsewhere have similar ordinances, including Franklin. Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield has told me half the sex offenders stopped registering in his city in the first year of their residency ordinance. This winter Merrimack County Superior Court shot down the Franklin residency restriction. Three years ago the Manchester Police persuaded their aldermen to kill a proposed sex offender residency ordinance, fearing it would drive many registrants underground.

The sex offender management board contemplated in SB 277 would rely on members from government agencies serving as part of their job and on volunteers from community programs that know and care about the issue. This volunteer model can work. The Inter-agency Commission on Women Offenders has been active for years and always has a good turnout from members. It does good work too. It has identified high recidivism among women offenders as a huge and solvable problem.


PA - Aston Twp. repeals law targeting sex offenders residency

Original Article

03/28/2012

By LORETTA RODGERS

ASTON — Citing pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union and a recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, township commissioners unanimously, but reluctantly, repealed a sexual predator ordinance adopted in 2006.

Solicitor Elizabeth Naughton-Beck, during a recent commissioners meeting, read a statement explaining the board’s decision to repeal the ordinance.

Many municipalities throughout the state and county enacted similar ordinances,” said Beck. “Unfortunately, some of those ordinances were too restrictive and came under challenge by the interest groups representing the individuals involved.”

Beck said, in 2011, the sexual offender residency restriction ordinance adopted by Allegheny County was challenged, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court entered a ruling prohibiting municipalities from setting restrictions for individuals convicted of crimes identified by Megan’s Law, arguing that individual municipalities could not intervene in the rehabilitation of the individuals.

It is because of the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that I have recommended to the board of commissioners that they repeal the residency restriction ordinance for convicted sex offenders,” said Beck.

Following the meeting, Beck said a letter was received from the ACLU challenging the township’s enforcement of the ordinance. She added that a second complaint from an individual threatening suit against the township was also received.

Commissioners President Jim Stigale said the board is not happy with repealing the ordinance, adding that the township’s hands are tied.

We were pressured to do this because of state law,” said Stigale. “We had no choice and even attempted to re-write our ordinance. Unfortunately, it would have not stood up in court. We want our children protected more than anything, but we would not have a leg to stand on in a court of law.”

The 2006 ordinance set restrictions as to where registered sex offenders could reside. It was recognized that Megan’s Law requires that people convicted of certain offenses and people adjudicated as a sexually violent predator must register with the Pennsylvania State Police for a period of 10 years. However, it did not contain any restrictions with respect to where persons convicted of the crimes may live.

At the time, it was the opinion of commissioners that the danger of recidivism by people convicted of the crimes identified under Megan’s Law was of great concern to the township and for this reason, the board sought to set residency restrictions on where these individuals may live, and thus provide additional protection for the children of the township.


IL - Illinois moving to toughen sex-offender registration law

Original Article

03/28/2012

By Kevin McDermott

SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Senate today passed a measure that would broaden and toughen Illinois’ sex-offender registry to comply with a federal child-protection law.

The federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act calls for dividing sex-offenders into three tiers, with the most dangerous offenders required to update their whereabouts every three months for life. It also makes it a federal felony to fail to register.

The sponsor of the Illinois bill to bring the state into compliance, Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, said the measure will further ensure “that the police and the community knows who these people are . . . and reminds the sex offenders that they are being watched.”

Yes it is harsh . . . on people who sexually exploit children,” said Haine.
- More of the usual BS!  The law affects all sex offenders and not all sex offenders have harmed children!

Opponents included Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, who said the state’s current sex-offender registry rules are adequate, and that the proposed changes could lead to lifetime registration for people who commit relatively minor crimes while they’re minors.

Raoul said an underlying goal of the bill is to help Illinois capture federal anti-crimes funds that are offered to states that comply with the federal statute—but that the cost of defending lawsuit that could arise from the changes could cost Illinois more than it gets from the feds.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Raoul said.

The bill, SB3359 (PDF), passed 37-11. It now moves to the House.


MO - Springfield Sex Offender Reacts to News he Could Eventually be Removed from Registry

Original Article

See the video at the link above.

03/28/2012

By Joanna Small and Joel Girdner

A Missouri representative wants to pass a law that would allow some offenders to petition for removal from the lifetime sex offender registry.

SPRINGFIELD - A sex offender tells us it would give him his life back; a victim's advocate says it would put people at risk. Those are two very different responses Wednesday to a bill on the verge of passing in the Missouri house that would change the state sex offender registry.

Right now if you're a Missouri sex offender your name is on the registry for life. A representative from Versailles wants to make some exceptions to that steadfast policy.

[name withheld] is watching himself grow up, flipping through a photo album of sorts, but there's nothing nostalgic about the photos on his television screen; they're courtesy of the Department of Corrections and the Greene County Sheriff's Office. That's because [name withheld] essentially grew up in prison.

"I celled up with a convict; he was killer. I know who he is, I know everything about him," [name withheld] tells us. "I had my mom look him up because I didn't know who I was celling with, didn't know who he was. He was a killer, in there for 30 years, and I'm just a kid. I was like 19 at the time," he remembers.

At 17, his senior year of high school, [name withheld] was charged with statutory rape for an offense he swears he didn't commit. A probation violation sent him to prison for two years. Now he's out, and life's about as bad as it was when he was in.

"I'm labeled as a sex offender, everybody is going to look at me differently. I hate it, I really do," says [name withheld]. "Every time someone calls me a child molester I get irked."

Right now that label is inescapable.[name withheld] 's on the sex offender registry, but a new Missouri law could take him off.

"It would be great, it would help me out a lot. I don't even have kids yet. What happens when I have kids? I can't go to parks with them, can't go anywhere there's any other kids at, can't take them to Chuck E. Cheese."

House Bill 1700 (PDF) establishes a three tier system, axing the lowest risk sex offenders from the list entirely. People, like [name withheld], whose offenses are considered mid-level on the tier system will have the opportunity, ten years after their sentence has ended, to petition a judge for removal. Those with the most serious offenses-- forcible rape and child molestation-- could petition after 20 years.

"I think it could put individuals at risk, I do," counters Nancy Berlin with The Victim's Center in Springfield.

Victim's advocates like Berlin aren't as excited about the proposal as [name withheld] is.

"We have so many adult survivors who were victims of a sexual crime as children, and that is something they have for the rest of their lives," explains Berlin. "It's not erased or taken off of anything, it's part of who they are."

She says it should be the same for perpetrators and that's what the registry ensures.
- And here is another person admitting the registry is basically a punishment!

"It is a life sentence, definitely," agrees [name withheld].

But he doesn't think it should be; he says he'd just like the chance to start a new album.

"It kills me. I want to have a family," he tells us, looking again at the pictures.

The representative who is sponsoring the bill says the tier system would address a job crisis among Missouri's sex offenders. He says more than half on the registry report they're unemployed.

A handful of other states, including Maine, South Dakota, Texas, and California have considered or are currently considering similar systems. Massachusetts already has one in place.


WA - STATE v. EVAN

Original Article

Excerpt:
In 1991, Evan was convicted of first degree child rape. Accordingly, she had the duty to register as a sex offender with the sheriff in the county where she lived. Former RCW 9A.44.130(1) (1990). She also had the duty to notify the sheriff of any change in her residence address. Former RCW 9A.44.130(3) (1990). In 1992, after her release from a juvenile detention facility, Evan appeared in person at the Pierce County Sheriff's Department to complete her initial registration. In 1995, she again appeared at the sheriff's office in person and filed a change of address form.


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