Archive for May 9, 2009

VT to Quintuple Size of Internet Sex Registry

May 9, 2009 Comments off : Lawmakers quintuple size of Internet sex registry.

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.

VT Sex Offender Sues City over Residency Ban

May 9, 2009 Comments off (Vermont) : ACLU-Vermont challenges Barre sex offender residency restrictions.

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)

NJ High Court Strikes Down Residency Laws

May 9, 2009 Comments off

AP : NJ court strikes down sex offender residency limit.
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.