Archive for July 19, 2009

Ohio v. Hale Reversed

July 19, 2009 Comments off : OH – SB-10 (The Adam Walsh Act) declared constitutional, trial court reversed.

The Court of Appeals Richland County, Ohio, 5th Appellate District reversed the trial court decision which held that, the changes made by SB-10 (Adam Walsh Act) were unconstitutional.

In a decision June 30, 2009, the appellate court, on four assignments of error, reversed the trial court decision and sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. The full decision by the Ohio Court of Appeals is here.

However, the Ohio Supreme court will be the ultimate arbiter.

Court Adds Thousands to Sex Offender Registry

July 19, 2009 Comments off : Court ruling requires thousands of Missouri sex offenders to go on registry.

By the end of the month, Missouri should have thousands more sex offenders back on its registry.
That means more offenders for authorities to keep in compliance. A longer registry for residents to pore over and use.

And then there’s the logistics of finding all 4,300 offenders — close to 600 in Jackson County alone — who haven’t had to register since 2006, but must now after a state Supreme Court ruling last month.

“Some of these people may be at different addresses, some may have moved out of state,” said Lt. John Hotz of the Missouri Highway Patrol. “Everyone is coming together to find the best way to get everyone back on there.”

The Highway Patrol has sent letters to offenders across the state. Once they received a letter, they had three days to register or make an appointment.

In the end, if everyone who needs to re-register does, the Missouri list will include about 11,600 people. That’s a nearly 60 percent jump from the past three years.

“This could be a lengthy process,” said Sgt. Gary Kilgore, of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. “The primary task will be making sure offenders know they are required to register now.”

If offenders don’t re-register, the Highway Patrol will determine if authorities have a current address for them and if they were notified about the Supreme Court ruling. But that’s as far as authorities go. Offenders who don’t re-register could face a felony charge.

In late June 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the Missouri Constitution didn’t allow for laws to be enforced retroactively. So only offenders convicted after the law took effect in January 1995 had to comply.

What the state judges didn’t know at the time was that a federal law, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, would go into effect the next month. It required all sex offenders, regardless of when they were convicted, to register. The Missouri Supreme Court last month ruled again, this time making it clear that the federal law must be obeyed.

States across the country are trying to come in compliance with the federal law, also known as the Adam Walsh Act. Some advocates say it requires too many offenders to register and doesn’t educate communities on how to use the lists.

“People rightly are trying to get information out there (about sex offenders), but absolutely there is an opportunity for overload,” said Suzanne Brown-McBride, board member for the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. “We’re concerned registries are getting flooded with people”.

Experts Say Registry Ruins Juvenile’s 2nd Chance

July 19, 2009 Comments off : Justice experts say sex offender registry ruins a juvenile’s 2nd chance.

The faces of child sex offenders are startling. “Those are not the people that we’re walking around terrified of,” says Michele Deitch, a University of Texas law professor.

The inclusion of children as young as 10 on the state’s public sex offender registry is a little-known policy – even to juvenile justice experts such as Deitch.

“I’m absolutely a little bit shocked that kids that young can be on the list,” says Deitch, who teaches juvenile justice policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

She’s stunned because public registration contradicts the purpose of juvenile justice: to give kids a second chance. In the case of some juvenile sex offenders, their criminal records are off limits, but information about their crime is easily accessible on the Internet.

“It is a terrible situation,” Deitch says. “The juvenile justice system is designed to rehabilitate kids and to make sure that they can change.”

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, there is no minimum age for inclusion on the state list. But a child must be at least 10 to be handled by the state juvenile justice system, so a judge may order an offender that young to register. No child can be certified as an adult in Texas until age 14.

In some states, children can be registered at age 7, though Nicole Pittman, a Philadelphia attorney who monitors juvenile sex offender registration laws nationwide, says adjudication of children younger than 10 is rare. Only two children currently under 14 are on the registry, but the inclusion of any child that young bothers many, including some victim advocates.

Annette Burrhus-Clay, executive director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault has been working with sexual assault victims for decades and was stunned to hear young children are included.

She worries that sexual abuse may go unreported as a result. “If I found my 10-year-old child with my 7-year-old child, I would be very tempted – even after 30 years in the field – not to report my child just to keep them off the registry.”

But not everyone opposes registration of young teens. Dianne Clements, president of Justice for All, a Houston-based victims’ rights organization, says the state’s current system of judicial discretion with juvenile offenders works. “We don’t want to believe that children can do the types of horrible things that they do,” she says. “But they do. And whether they’re 13 or 23 years old, they can be as dangerous.”

Nationally, the Adam Walsh Act calls for mandatory registration of sex offenders ages 14 and older. Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says, “Congress got it about right by setting that 14-year level.” He does, however, favor judicial discretion over mandatory registration.

Publicizing their names and addresses often leads to social isolation because parents don’t want their kids associating with sex offenders. School officials must be notified of the offender’s history, and registration makes getting accepted to college or finding work difficult.

“We’re stigmatizing children who have a much better chance of success completing sex offender treatment and never perpetrating again,” Burrhus-Clay says.

Zimring says the laws allowing juvenile registration are an accidental byproduct of adult policies.

“Nobody is making policy for 12-year-olds in American legislatures,” the professor says. “What they’re doing is they’re making crime policy and then almost by accident extending those policies to 12-year-olds – with poisonous consequences.” Zimring thinks it’s inappropriate to register anyone adjudicated as a juvenile – which would be anyone under 18 in Texas.

Sex-offender Label on Boys Ruins Family’s Lives

July 19, 2009 Comments off : Sex-offender label on boys unravels family’s lives.

In 1998, 7-year-old Mary was sexually assaulted. That’s enough sorrow for a lifetime. It gets worse: Her assailants were her brothers, Billy, 12, and Mark, 10.

Their mother, Carol, says watching her adolescent sons shuffle into court – in handcuffs and oversized orange jail jumpsuits rolled up to fit their scrawny frames – for assaulting their sister “just tore my heart out.” But the horror was only beginning.

Following the juvenile justice philosophy that children deserve a second chance, the boys received probation, and their delinquency records remained private. But ostensibly to protect the public, their names were added to the sex offender registry.

The Smith sons, now in their 20s, are due to be removed from the registry next year after the 10-year juvenile registration limitation expires. But Carol says the family will never recover from the boys being branded as sex offenders.

“Even though they were 10 and 12 when this happened … they’ll be sex offenders when they die,” she says.

The Smith family – whose names have been changed to protect Mary’s privacy – is not unique. According to a Dallas Morning News analysis, about 4,000 people are on the Texas sex offender registry for crimes committed as juveniles. About a thousand of them were younger than 14 at the time of their crimes.

“They see the word ‘sex offender’ and they automatically see it as some horrible monster that took some little girl out somewhere and raped her,” she says. “Nobody really cares what the story is.”