MA : No-go for Sex Offender Law

October 27, 2009 : No-go for sex offender bylaw.

Plymouth – A proposal to restrict where Level 3 sex offenders can live in Plymouth and where sex offenders whose crime involved a child can loiter gained little traction Monday night as representatives argued the pros and cons of the plan. In the end, Town Meeting struck down the proposal, which would have prevented Level 3 sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet, or half a mile, of any school, daycare center, elderly housing complex, park or recreation facility.

If passed, the proposal would also have restricted sex offenders whose offense involved a child from being in a town or state park.

But Precinct 12 Rep. Bill Abbott, an attorney, said the bylaw, if adopted, would leave Plymouth vulnerable to a myriad of lawsuits.

“This bylaw is going to be a lawyer’s delight,” he added, noting that Dover, N.H., passed a similar restriction that was promptly appealed and overturned by the courts. In this case, the court ruled that the state failed to prove a connection between the restriction and safer children. In addition, the court ruled the measure violated these felons’ civil rights.

The bylaw, as written, is far too broad, Precinct 8 Rep. Theodore Bosen said. Many teens who are considered children under the law can be convicted of a sex crime for showing their friends a pornographic magazine, or for French kissing a girlfriend who is the not the legal age of consent. These relatively minor infractions can brand these children as sex offenders whose offense involved children. Restricting these minors from being in a state or town park means they won’t be able to participate in sports, attend events or even participate in recess, Bosen said. “This loitering statute is overly broad,” he added.

“It’s a flawed bylaw,” Precinct 8 Rep. Paul Luszcz said, adding that the measure needs more careful study and consideration before it’s ready for serious consideration by the local legislature.

A motion to eliminate the residency provision of the bylaw was defeated with a vote of 78 to 32. The sex offender article as a whole was struck down by a vote of 80 to 22.

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