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Archive for January 21, 2010

OH: Harassing Elderly Sex Offenders in Nursing Homes

January 21, 2010 Comments off

Columbus Dispatch: Bill shuts sex-offender notification loophole at nursing homes.

A loophole that allows more than 100 registered sex offenders to live in Ohio nursing homes without other residents and their families knowing about their offenses could be closed with state legislation unveiled yesterday.

Senate Bill 130, sponsored by state Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, would require nursing-home administrators to notify residents, family members and guardians when a Tier III sex offender — the most serious level of offense — intends to move to the facility. The hearing yesterday was the first on the bill.

Current law requires the notification of anybody living within 1,000 feet of a sex offender. However, the law does not require nursing-home administrators to inform residents, family or guardians.

Facilities that don’t comply could be fined $100 a day per violation. Proceeds from fines would be used for adult protective services, Cafaro said.

A Dispatch computer analysis last year comparing state records of long-term-care facilities with the existing notification list found that 110 nursing-home residents and six employees were registered sex offenders. Ohio’s number of offenders in nursing facilities nearly tripled in the past five years, according to Perfect Cause, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit group.

Nearly two-thirds of the offenders in nursing homes are Tier III cases, The Dispatch found. The category includes rape, sexual battery, kidnapping a minor and gross sexual imposition on a child younger than 12.

Beverley L. Laubert, the state’s long-term-care ombudsman, urged state lawmakers to pass a law closing the loophole in a report released late last year.

Some argue that notification is unfair and would create unnecessary fear. Attorney General Richard Cordray supports the change, but Sen. Timothy J. Grendell, R-Chesterland, chairman of the committee in which Cafaro’s bill is being heard, is skeptical. He said previously that nursing-home residents and their families can “check for themselves” to see whether an offender resides in the facility.

We urge Ohio readers to contact the above highlighted officials and their own representatives to chastise them for harassing elderly people in nursing homes:

“Re: Senate Bill 130
Stop harassing those elderly residents who have a sex offense in their history. It is more than enough to harass young and able citizens who have made such a mistakes sometime in their lives, but to carry on this harassment into a nursing home, where they live their last days, is shameful. Remember, someday you may wake to find out someone you love just became a sex offender.”

Miami FL Changes Sex Offender Restrictions

January 21, 2010 Comments off

miamiherald.com: Miami-Dade further restricts sex-offender laws, eases others

Sex offenders and predators will be further restricted in Miami-Dade County, but possibly face lesser residency restrictions in other cities, under an ordinance passed by the County Commission Thursday. The changes to its current ordinance affect where molesters can live and loiter within the county and the 24 separate municipalities and unincorporated areas within its borders.

Amendments to the ordinance create “child-safety zones,” that ban sex offenders in Miami-Dade County from loitering or prowling within 300 feet of a school, day-care facility and municipal or county park. Previously, laws only restricted where molesters could live. A loophole made it legal for sex predators to be near schools and any other child facilities during the day. The amended ordinance also essentially forces other cities — who don’t opt out — to allow sex offenders to live closer places that children congregate — other than schools. This includes parks, bus stops and day-care facilities. All municipalities have a 90-day window in which to pass a resolution to opt out of the county’s rules, thereby allowing them to pass their own laws again.

Key points of the ordinance:

• Prohibits convicted sex offenders and predators from living within 2,500 feet of a school — only. They may live within 2,500 feet of other facilities, including and not limited to: municipal and county parks, day-care facilities and bus stops.

• Under a new “child-safety zone” amendment, sex offenders are banned from loitering or prowling within 300 feet of a school, municipal or county park or day-care facility.

• A sexual offender and predator is permitted in the park or day-care facility if he or she is a parent or guardian of the child.

• Any municipality may, within 90 days, have the ability to veer from the county ordinance by passing more restrictive ordinances. They are not permitted to pass less restrictive ordinances.

• Unless the suspected sexual offender flees, a law enforcement officer must give the offender or predator an opportunity to explain his or her presence and conduct before arrest.

• It is unlawful for anyone to rent a dwelling to a sexual offender or predator when the structure is within 2,500 feet of a school.

Call to Action: SORNA Teleconference Jan.22

January 21, 2010 Comments off

Call to Action:
All readers are asked to call the NCSL (Glenda Riebeling) at
glenda.riebeling@ncsl.org or (303) 856-1533 before noon Friday, Jan, 22, 2010. The chances of our being allowed to participate in this conference call are slim, but it is important that these state legislators know how many of us are out here paying attention to these sex offender/SORNA/Adam Walsh Act laws. You can even call after business hours and leave a voicemail requesting to participate in the teleconference call and expressing your interest.

National Conference of State Legislators: NCSL Law and Criminal Justice Committee SORNA Teleconference – Friday, January 22, 1:00 p.m. ET

This conference call will provide an opportunity to hear from new Office of Justice Program’s SMART Office (Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking) officials about SORNA compliance and will include brief updates by NCSL state issues and federal relations staff. A question and discussion opportunity will be included in the approximately one-hour teleconference.

Dial-in Instructions:

  • The conference call will start at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 12:00 Noon Central Time, 11:00 a.m. Mountain Time and 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.
  • Dial toll free (888) 437-3195 – Participants can start dialing in 15 minutes before the start of the call.
  • Announce yourself to the operator as: “A Participant in the NCSL SORNA Call” and give your “Name” and “Organization”.

Various SORNA updates are available on NCSL’s Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.

Please contact glenda.riebeling@ncsl.org or (303) 856-1533 to RSVP and to let us know in advance of questions and interests of your state on this issue. Your RSVP will help us plan the conference call capacity and structure the discussion with the SMART office.

New SMART Director: Linda M. Baldwin SMART Deputy Director: Dawn Doran. SMART Policy Advisors who assist jurisdictions with implementation issues: Lori McPherson, Stephanie LoConto, Scott Matson and Allison Turkel. Policy Advisor Contacts by jurisdiction

Implementation grant funding information from the SMART Office

SD to Revise Sex Offender Registry

January 21, 2010 Comments off

ksfy.com: Panel Eyes Changes In SD Sex Offender Registry.

A legislative committee has started working on eight bills that tweak South Dakota’s sex offender registry law and would give some offenders the chance of eventually being removed from the list.

Chief among the changes is creating a three-tiered system that classifies offenders based on their crimes. Those convicted of the most serious crimes would be on the registry forever. Others could eventually have their name removed after a period of either 10 years or 25 years.

The Senate Judiciary Committee spent nearly two hours reviewing the bills and took some testimony Thursday, but did not vote. One of the questions is where in the tier system to place people already on the registry.

Banning Citizens from the Internet

January 21, 2010 Comments off

First Amendment Coalition: Rulings banning sex criminals from internet may pave road for draconian punishments for lesser offenders.

Predictability is important when it comes to the law. Citizens should know what sort of punishment they should expect for engaging in criminal behavior. It offends our notions of justice when wildly different sentences are handed down for similar crimes.

So its more than a little disturbing that courts cannot decide whether or not an individual’s criminal acts can justify a ban from the entire Internet. While Circuit splits on the interpretation of criminal statutes are par for course (see, e.g., disagreements as to what constitutes a “violent felony” under the ACCA), the debate over Internet bans rages within one Circuit Court of Appeals. The latest ruling by the Third Circuit appears to be its third change of course in the last decade, undermining our understanding of and confidence in Internet prohibitions.

Like its sister Circuits, the Third Circuit has been struggling with the idea of banning Internet access for sex offenders. The logic goes something like this: because convicted sex offenders might use the Internet to exploit children, sentencing courts may simply outlaw their access to the Internet. Of course, an offender might also use a car or a telephone to exploit a child, but these tools haven’t come into the cross hairs just yet.

In United States v. Crandon, 173 F.3d 122 (3d Cir. 1999), the Court of Appeals imposed a three-year partial Internet ban as a condition of release for a convicted sex offender. After the offender had completed his prison sentence, he was “not [to] ‘possess, procure, purchase[,] or otherwise obtain access to any form of computer network, bulletin board, Internet, or exchange format involving computers unless specifically approved by the United States Probation Office.’” Id. at 125. The Third Circuit later rejected a lifetime, immutable Internet ban in United States v. Voelker, 489 F.3d 139 (3d Cir. 2007), and seemed to recognize that it’s not a great idea to ban access to the greatest information gathering tool the world has ever seen. Then, another panel reversed course and decided that the Internet wasn’t all that vital, upholding a ten-year Internet ban for a sex offender in United States v. Thielemann, 575 F.3d 265 (3d Cir. 2009). But then, just last Monday, the court vacated another immutable, lifetime Internet ban in United States v. Heckman, noting that even tempered Internet bans appear draconian.

So what is the take away? You can bar predatory users from using the Internet, so long as the length of the ban is quantified and the ban allows a probation officer to grant case-specific exceptions. But the court won’t say how long is too long. Perversely, the maximum amount of time marked for digital exile seems to be growing, just as the Internet is becoming more pervasive. For most users, a decade without Internet use seems like a death sentence. But so long as there is a hard number, there is light at the end of the digital tunnel, and the court won’t flinch. Further, the court has not provided any guidelines for the types of online activity that could prove acceptable, so probation officers can bar web access for any reason they choose, real or imagined. As I’ve noted previously, there is almost no incentive for a probation officer to grant access.

Now no doubt some of you are wondering why we should care about the release conditions for sex offenders. After all, these individuals have acted in such a bestial manner, why should we suffer their presence in our series of tubes? Recent developments give you plenty of reasons to care about the sentencing regimes applied to child molesters.

First off, several camps are pushing for a “three-strikes” policy for accused file-sharers. Indeed, our negotiators might be agreeing to just such a draconian measure during the secret drafting of ACTA. If you or any member of your household has ever illegally downloaded a file, be afraid. First they came for the child molesters . . .

Second, the sexting phenomenon means that a large number of adolescents might wind up being labeled sex offenders. Recently, a prosecutor sought to charge a group of high school students with the production and distribution of child pornography for taking pictures of themselves. Prosecutors are taking sexting cases very seriously. Even after a judge in a related civil suit issued an injunction barring the prosecutor from filing charges, he appealed (the Third Circuit recently heard oral argument in the case).

It is not absurd to worry that some sexters will receive partial Internet bans. I have written about one such case where a teenager lost Internet access for three years for maliciously posting nude photos of his teenage girlfriend. Furthermore, some states already have statutes that ban sex offenders from social networking sites. If the sex offender label is applied so liberally, we may electronically execute large numbers of the so-called “digital natives.”

Let’s avoid all these concerns and agree that we should not strip offenders of basic life tools. We should all worry that these Internet executions will spread.

AL Wants to Ban Sex Offenders from Social Networks

January 21, 2010 Comments off

waff.com: Senate Bill could block sex offenders from social networking sites

Montgomery, AL (WAFF) – A bill is working its way through Montgomery to strengthen on-line laws in Alabama.
Senate Bill 48 unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, and will now go to the Senate for consideration.

The bill could punish sex offenders with two to 20 years in prison for surfing social networking sites that are available to minors.

At this time, sex offenders must report sites and screen names they use, but Shawn McClure, an investigator with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, says criminal penalties are limited for on-line behavior.

“I can arrest them for falsifying their sex offender registration form.” McClure says he would love to see SB48 become law, but says it still presents challenges. “We’re taxed with finding out what sex offenders have computers or access because just about any place anybody works and public locations have computers for people to use,” added McClure.

Maine Lawmakers to Revise Sex Offender Law

January 21, 2010 Comments off

bangordailynews.com: Lawmakers discuss sex offender law.

Augusta, Maine — State lawmakers reopened the books on Maine’s controversial sex offender law on Wednesday in the wake of a recent court ruling questioning the constitutionality of aspects of the registry.

Late last month, Maine’s highest court gave the Legislature slightly more than three months to revise a 1999 state law requiring certain sex offenders to essentially re-register with police every 90 days for the rest of their lives. The court said applying that lifetime requirement retroactively without the possibility of a waiver was unconstitutional.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Janet T. Mills told a legislative committee that the Supreme Judicial Court upheld Maine’s right to maintain and publish — including on the Internet — a list of convicted sex offenders in the interest of public safety. Additionally, the law can remain in place for people convicted after the 1999 law took effect.

But Mills said the court’s ruling means the Legislature will have to take steps to address sex offenders convicted between 1982 and 1999.

Under current law, anyone convicted of a sex offense or sexually violent offense since Jan. 1, 1982, is required to register with the state. But the law has gone through various iterations in response to public outcry, national requirements and legal challenges.

The case brought before the Supreme Judicial Court involved Eric Letalien, a Dixfield man who was 19 when he was convicted of rape in 1996 for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. At the time, he was required to register as a sex offender for 15 years, but was also allowed to seek a waiver from the registry after five years. Under the changes enacted in 1999, he was required to register as a sex offender every 90 days for the rest of his life. The updated law also took away his right to ask for a waiver.

Mills presented the committee with several options. Committee members also expressed an interest in simultaneously reviewing a bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Anne Haskell, of Portland, that would rewrite various aspects of the law. The first option presented by Mills was to repeal the lifetime registration requirement and the mandatory check-in with police every 90 days for anyone convicted before the 1999 law. A more complicated but constitutionally sound option would be to create what Mills called a “rolling registry” where offenders would only have to follow the laws that were on the books at the time of their conviction. The state could also keep lifetime registration but allow convicted offenders the opportunity to seek a waiver from that requirement if they met certain requirements, such as no subsequent offenses.

The retroactive application of registration requirements has long been one of the most hotly debated aspects of an already controversial law. Critics argue that requiring registration for people convicted before the law took effect constitutes additional punishment on many people who served their time and have had no subsequent violations.

Zachary Heiden, legal director with the Maine Civil Liberties Union, said he believes simply eliminating the retroactivity of the law is the best and simplest option. While waivers may make sense from a policy standpoint, waivers may not meet the constitutional test, he said.