Archive for September 4, 2009

Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Residency Limits

September 4, 2009 Comments off : Iowa court dismisses challenge to sex offender law.

The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a challenge to a state law that bans certain sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools and day care centers.

Robert Formaro argued, among other issues, that the law violated his right to travel and freedom of association. He claimed, for example, that it prohibited him from traveling to any location where he may fall asleep within the 2,000-foot zone. And, he said, it barred him from participating in overnight family gatherings and overnight stays at a hospital within the 2,000-foot zone.

Ruling in the case from Polk County, the court said the law dictates where Formaro may live, but doesn’t impede his freedom of travel or right to association.

“Formaro is free both day and night to attend political meetings, religious services, or other gatherings, both in and outside the protected zone,” the court said.

Formaro also claimed the law was vague, arguing the term “reside” doesn’t convey what conduct is prohibited.

In its ruling, the court said it’s clear the Legislature wanted to prevent sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care and “not casual sleep within a prohibited zone.”

“While the 2,000-foot rule impinges on where Formaro may establish a residence, there is no fundamental right to live where you want and certainly not one based upon the First Amendment,” the court said.

Court records show that Formaro was 15 when he was charged in 1998 of second-degree sexual abuse in juvenile court. He was convicted but not placed on the sex offender registry because the court found he was a low risk to reoffend. Two years later, he was accused of participating in a burglary. Formaro pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 year in prison and was placed on the state’s sexual offender registry.

He was released from prison in 2004 and lived with his parents in Ankeny with the approval of his parole officer.

In 2005, his new parole officer discovered his parents’ home was within 2,000 feet of an elementary school and told him he needed to move within five days.

He filed a petition claiming the law was unconstitutional, which a district court denied. He appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Formaro’s attorney, Alfredo Parrish, said he was disappointed in the court’s ruling. “We think the right to travel is impinged by the 2,000-foot rule and we’re considering whether or not we have any additional grounds to take this up,” he said.

The Legislature revamped the law this year. It retains the 2,000-foot ban for schools and day care centers for those who have committed sex abuse against a child. It also puts in place a ban on offenders entering those places without permission, and it establishes a 300-foot “no loiter” zones around those sites.

Parrish says he’s considering asking the Iowa Supreme Court to reconsider the case. “I think some of the real issues we tried to address in Formaro are still out there and I think only through court review of the new statute are we going to be able to truly understand what impact it’s going to have on people affected by these rules,” he said.

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Mary Tabor said the decision upholds the 2,000-foot ruling in the new law.
“I think it would probably bode well for future constitutional challenges against the new statute as far as it’s application to a more narrow group of sex offenders,” she said.

More Than Tough Laws Needed?

September 4, 2009 Comments off

BaltimoreSun : More than just tough laws needed to prevent sex crimes.

CF response:

Most sex offenses are committed by someone the victims knows personally (family members, baby sitters, friends, et. al.). (the low figure is over 75%)

In fact, national statistics show that 85 percent to 95 percent of the time, the offender is someone the child knows.

So the conclusion that this requires more stringent restrictions on sex offenders does not follow. The Dugard case is a prime example which clearly shows that the social branding and banishment laws do not work. No sex offender in California had more strict restrictions than did this monster; parole officials visited his home and interviewed him once each month. And he registered with county officials , as required, for over a decade. This was a case which demonstrates the inability of law enforcement to apply their resources in so many directions. The fact that the sex offender registries have been so flooded now(with the application of the new Adam Walsh Act laws and other restrictions such as residency restrictions), should demonstrate the fallacy of such laws.

The more people we put on these registries, the less abhorrent crimes will be prevented. It really is just a statistical fact. These registries need to be pared down to list only the most violent and high-risk offenders, yet laws like Adam Walsh Act do absolutely nothing to assess risk levels. In fact, in states like Ohio, the AWA implementation replaced a system which did account for risk level… while it increased the number of offenders on registries by instating retro-active application to offenders who committed crimes decades ago, and whom have had no criminal activity since.

The answer is quite the opposite of your supposition: we should limit the registry population to only those deemed by a court to be the most violent and high-risk offenders, with a tool to assess offenders over a period of time to allow them to prove their way “off” these registries. Sentencing any offender to a life-long social banishment (often times retroactively and unconstitutionally) serves no legitimate public safety purpose. In fact, it can make our communities less safe by forcing instability into the lives of those who committed a crime decades ago, and whom by the way, often have families and children of their own who are directly affected by this banishment mentality.