Archive for February, 2010

Transcripts of SCOTUS Ex Post Facto Oral Arguments

February 25, 2010 Comments off

Sentencing Law & Policy: Today’s SCOTUS sex offender Ex Post oral argument transcripts

We now have a chance here to post the transcripts of SCOTUS oral arguments today here for Carr v. United States (08-1301) and here for United States v. Marcus (08-1341). I fear I won’t have a chance to read these transcripts for a while, but perhaps readers can note any important highlights we have missed.

Let us be clear: This case is convoluted, for sure, and difficult to follow the details of the facts and law. But the essence of this case is this:

1. Mr. Carr committed a sex offense in 2004 in Alabama. After his release , he registered in Alabama.
2. Later in 2004, he moved to Indiana where he did not register.
3. His failure to register in Indiana was discovered in 2007 when he was indicted under SORNA.
4. The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which was part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was enacted on July 27, 2006.

Therefore, this case argues that SORNA, which did not exist when Mr. Carr moved in 2004, should not apply. Mr. Carr moved before SORNA made it illegal for him to move and fail to register. Now, each state has its own registration laws and if Indiana law required him to register, then he could be held liable within that state. But this case revolves around a federal prosecution under a law which did not exist when Mr. Carr violated it.
So…while this is a retroactivity (Ex Post Facto) case, it is somehwat different than the Ex Post Facto challenges on SORNA itself, which challenge whether SORNA can be applied retroactively, as it relates to extending registration requirements. Having said that; it is a very important test case of how the US Supreme Court will rule on retroactive SORNA laws.


JUSTICE BREYER: Well, what is the basic purpose of this statute? I’m having a hard time with it. Is it — is the purpose of the statute to try to get a lot of people to register who haven’t registered at all? Or is the purpose of the statute to get the people who had registered in one State and then moved, and make sure they register in another State?

MR. ROTHFELD: I think that the purpose was generally to encourage registration of sex offenders. Now, of course, when — when Congress wrote the statute, as — as has been pointed out, it was not apparent to them that it was going to apply to people who had committed sex offenses before SORNA was enacted at all. That turned upon the Attorney General’s subsequent determination.

JUSTICE BREYER: No, I mean if they are just trying to get people to register in general, and they are not particularly worried about travel, then they are using this travel as a kind of jurisdictional hook. And if they are using it as a jurisdictional hook, they would like to get everybody, as many as possible, that argues against you.

MR. ROTHFELD: Well, two points –

JUSTICE BREYER: I — I — I have a hard time seeing just what they are aiming at.

MR. ROTHFELD: Well, it — it’s — to — to be honest, I think it’s not entirely clear that Congress had anything specific in mind beyond a reaction to the prior regime in which there were inconsistent approaches being taken by the States.
JUSTICE SCALIA: I don’t know where you get that from. I can understand how you can say, which is what Mr. Rothfeld says, that it has to follow the requirement to register. That’s the way the statute reads: Whoever, one, is required to register, not whoever has committed an offense that — that would later justify registration. It seems to me you are just making up the — the prior act that — that triggers the interstate travel requirement.

MR. GANNON: Well, I don’t think that we are making it up, Justice Scalia.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Well, what text do you base it on? One says “is required to register,” and the position of the Petitioner is: After you are required to register, you must travel in interstate commerce. And you say: No, it’s after you commit the offense that you must travel on interstate. Where do you get that from?

MR. GANNON: Well, we get that from the facts, from the context here, from the anomaly that would be created, the structural anomaly about the differential treatment between Federal and State sex offenders. The fact that the purpose of the statute is to recapture missing sex offenders, which are persons who engaged in interstate travel to elude the registration requirements that already apply to them as sex offenders. And so we think that when Congress invoked the — its powers to regulate travel and interstate commerce, in order to give that element meaning, we think that it makes sense to apply it to persons who already have the type of sex offense convictions that SORNA requires them to register for.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: So your answer to Justice Scalia is that you don’t get it from the language? We get it from the anomaly, you get it from the purpose.
JUSTICE BREYER: Do you find any where -where they were both phrased in present tense and it was pretty clear that Congress intended to catch activity that was — at least where the jurisdictional part took place before the statute took effect? You find that good an analogy anywhere?

MR. GANNON: I — I’m not aware of — of a provision that’s — that’s phrased like that-

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I — I tried to find one and — and couldn’t. I mean, looking up travels in — in the code, in each of those cases that I found it’s always — it looks like it’s — it’s linked directly to the activity that’s meant to be covered. You know, traveling for the purpose of the — the activity that’s against the law.

MR. GANNON: It’s — that’s — that’s true — in most instances in which Congress has an interstate travel element, that’s true. In some — in some cases like the — the statute at issue in the Trupin case about possession of — of — of stolen goods that have traveled in interstate commerce, that -that’s — that’s — that’s an invocation of-

JUSTICE SCALIA: Yes, where — where it means prior travel, it says so, use of a firearm that has traveled in interstate commerce. They use the past tense when they mean it.
JUSTICE ALITO: But all of those provisions refer now, as a result of the Attorney General’s determination that pre-SORNA convictions qualify, all of those provisions use the present tense to refer to activities that can have taken place in the past.

MR. ROTHFELD: That is correct. At the time that Congress wrote those civil provisions, this statute, on its face, applied prospectively only. The Attorney General had not yet retroactively applied it. Congress specifically gave the Attorney General the authority to apply it retroactively in defining which offenders had to register. It did not give him any authority to retroactively change the scope of the –
JUSTICE ALITO: Well, Mr. Gannon may have made an argument that is not helpful to his position. But can you accept that the first provision means exactly what it says: “Is required to register.” And that takes effect on day when SORNA is enacted.

Florida Revisits Sex-Offender Laws

February 25, 2010 Comments off 5 years after Jessica Lunsford’s death, Florida revisits sex-offender laws.

Lawmakers are rethinking how the state monitors sex offenders and the effectiveness of tougher laws passed after Jessica Lunsford’s death. The brutal killing of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford five years ago today fueled the creation of a boogeyman in Florida politics: the sex offender.

The designation carries a loaded significance in the legislative process and efforts each year to further restrict the freedoms of sex offenders win broad support. This year is no different with proposed measures to require background checks on athletic coaches and forbid some sexual offenders from using the Internet.

But now — after time, a trial and the killer’s death have dissolved the zeal that spurred the Jessica Lunsford Act in 2005 — a number of lawmakers are rethinking how the state monitors sex offenders and whether current laws are really making children safer. “The emotion and publicity and political science that comes into play after a horrific situation tends to create an overreaction,” said Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville, a prosecutor.

The law named in her honor ordered more electronic monitoring and registration of sex offenders, tougher prison sentences, and background checks for people who work at schools. The effort spread nationwide to more than 30 states with the help of her father, Mark Lunsford, a truck-driver-turned-activist.

The attention also propelled city and county officials in Florida to implement tougher barriers prohibiting sex offenders from living or working near schools, playgrounds, bus stops and churches.


Combined with the Jimmy Ryce Act in 1998, which permitted the civil commitment of sexual predators for life, the efforts made Florida among the most restrictive states in the nation. But recent studies and state statistics show the fear that propelled the laws doesn’t match reality.

“Across the country, studies are not showing changes in sex crime rates can be attributed to those policies,” said Dr. Jill Levenson, a professor at Lynn University in Boca Raton who studies sex offenders. “Sex crimes against children are on the downslide — but since the 1990s.”

The number of people on Florida’s sex offender registry has increased almost 50 percent in five years, now topping 53,500. Nationwide, registered sexual offenders top 700,000.

Even more telling, Florida now spends an additional $36 million a year on sex offender programs. But the number of inmates convicted for sex crimes has held steady in the five years since the Jessica Lunsford Act, according to Department of Corrections statistics.

And the laws have created unintended consequences. The restrictions on where sex offenders can reside made hundreds homeless and prompted dozens in Miami to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. And the requirements to register those convicted of lewd crimes put the sex offender label on people who authorities don’t deem a threat.

“There is no empirical support that restrictions on where sex offenders live prevents sexual abuse or re-offending,’‘ said Levenson, a clinical social worker. “Not every person who commits a sex crime is a predatory pedophile.”


This is the message Jennifer Dritt, a leading victim’s advocate at the state Capitol, preaches. As executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, Dritt supported tougher restrictions on sex offenders. But she said the lesson from the Jessica Lunsford case was misunderstood. Most sexual offenders are not strangers across the street. The overwhelming majority are those with familial authority.

“In a positive vein, [Jessica’s case] really raised awareness of sexual offender management issues,” Dritt said. “But I think it also sponsored a lot of knee-jerk reactions.” Some lawmakers are starting to agree.

State Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, is sponsoring legislation to revamp Florida’s sex offender laws by implementing a “circle of safety” to protect children instead of strong residency restrictions on sexual offenders. The main provision of the bill (HB119) would prohibit sexual offenders from loitering within 300 feet of locations where children are present.

“Sometimes we focus on where those people live,” Glorioso said. “Where they are sleeping last night really isn’t the issue. It’s what they are doing when they are awake.”

Already Glorioso’s bill is falling prey to the politics that put current provisions in place. As originally drafted, the legislation would have prevented cities and counties from making barriers tougher than the 1,000-foot standard in state law but because of political opposition, he plans to take it out.

Will Sex Offender Have to Pay for Old Crimes?

February 25, 2010 Comments off Will sex offender have to pay for old crimes?

Fifteen years have come and gone since he was arrested, pleaded guilty and received five years’ probation for the third-degree sexual offense of trying to solicit sex from a prostitute who was 13 years old. Larry — a name I’ve given him for the purposes of this column — served his probation and took part in weekly group therapy sessions at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Records indicate that he has not committed such a crime — or any crime — since then. “In fact,” he adds, “I would say I’ve lived an exemplary life since then.”

There aren’t many sex offenders going public these days. Larry, who told his story provided I did not use his name, says he “came out of the woodwork” only because of what he (and others) see as election-year hysteria in Annapolis to toughen laws and regulations on sexual offenders, particularly those who victimize children. One of the dozens of measures in the legislature would expand Maryland’s sex offender registry to cover cases from 15 to 25 years ago.

That means Larry’s face and his record would appear where it doesn’t now: on the Internet, for the entire world to see. “I hadn’t really been paying attention to all this nutty, knee-jerk sex offender legislation,” he says. “But I am now.”

When he was arrested in 1995, he had been a consultant on several government-funded projects. He lost his security clearance, lost his job. He had a difficult time finding another. “Categorically turned down by many, many employers,” he says. So he took a lot of lousy jobs that didn’t last. Finally, he found a good job commensurate with his education and training, but he’s sure he would lose it if the General Assembly expands the offender registry.

Larry wrote an anonymous letter to the House Judicial Proceedings Committee. He had a friend deliver it for him. He gave me a copy. I told him I’d let him have his say in this space because an anonymous letter to an Annapolis committee probably never gets much attention.

“Over the past 15 years,” he wrote the committee, “I have been continuously employed. I completed an advanced degree; and I have provided time tutoring and guiding adult students in my field. I am involved in an international program to improve technology in third-world countries. I have made valuable contributions using my artistic and creative side.

“I do not seek contact with children, and I usually go out of my way to avoid it. I do have several nieces whose lives I’ve been invited into with welcome arms. Friends have knowingly welcomed me into their homes. Rehabilitation has not been easy. I’ve worked extremely hard at it and succeeded at it. Were I to detect potential triggers, I know how to employ avoidance strategies involving family, friends and therapists.” Larry credits the group therapy sessions at UMMC with having the most effect on his thinking and behavior, and he thinks the state should spend its money on such programs instead of the costly expansion of its online offender registry.

“I attribute a certain amount of ease in rehabilitation to the fact that I was not subject to any post-probation placement on Internet sex offender lists or unsolicited neighborhood notifications. For example, my current employer, who I hope to be my long-term employer, would not have hired me, according to their policy, had I been on the state’s sex offender list. If I get on such a list, who knows whether I’ll keep my job? It’s open season on you once you’re on that list.”

Larry believes he made a contract with the state 15 years ago — a guilty plea in return for five years’ probation, the court-ordered therapy and nothing more. “I have lived in a contract with the state of Maryland,” he wrote. “Now the state of Maryland wants to impose stringent, retroactive reporting requirements on me and put my picture on the Internet, parading me like a circus freak. The state wants to humiliate me and set me back. The state wants to open me up to potential violence. The state is about to punish me for having done everything right for over 15 years.”

Notice: US Marshalls Verifying Ohio Offenders

February 24, 2010 Comments off

We have been unable to verify the source of this report independently, but we will post if out of caution. This is not legal advice and does not apply to those on probation. parole or other post release control, whom may be held to stricter standards of compliance. This is simply a statement of Americans’ constitutional rights as they relate to law enforcement coming to our homes (see Police Want To Talk to You, What Do You Do?:

U.S. Marshals have descended on Ohio across the state, claiming they are here to check the registry and compare it with the offender’s actual address by going to their home. (i.e. sex offender compliance sweep)

Nothing has been found to validate what they are saying, or why they are even there. Validating the registry by checking the addresses with the offender’s actual presence is the job of the Sheriff’s Department in each county. It is no other law enforcement agency’s responsibility. For example, the only reason you should find a U.S. Marshall at your door is if you moved to Ohio and failed to register, as per the Adam Walsh Act requirements, or if a federal sex offense has occurred.

Should you see U.S. Marshals standing outside your door, upon opening your door, you should know:

1. The only information you should give them is your name.
2. If they ask to enter your home, ask them if they have a warrant, if not, the answer is “no”.
3. If they ask for other documentation/identification, such as; Vehicle Identification Number, email address, you do not have to provide this information. Name and verification of your address is the only request they can make without a warrant.

You have the right to ask them questions. For example:
Asking for ID, Why are you here? Am I under arrest? Do you have a warrant? Who do you work for? Are you investigating a crime?

It’s important to never allow law enforcement into your home without a warrant, in other words when you don’t have to, because that gives them the opportunity to “plant evidence” if they choose to. It makes no difference that they are federal agents (US Marshals) or local law enforcement.

There is no guarantee that they won’t arrest you if you refuse them entry into your home or if you do not provide additional information they are requesting. If they arrest you for this, that would be “false arrest” and you can sue them for that. Don’t speak to them, don’t say anything, cooperate, let them take you in, and continually demand you be allowed to have an attorney present before answering any questions or talking to them. Say nothing else.

**If any of you have experienced a visit from the US Marshals, we need the complete story forwarded so that we may give the information to the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, or contact the OJPC directly at (513) 421-1108.

SCOTUS, SORNA and the Ex Post Facto Clause

February 24, 2010 Comments off SORNA and the Ex Post Facto Clause -Carr v. United States, Argument preview.

Below, Kate Neilson of Harvard Law School previews Carr v. United States (08-1301), one of two cases to be heard by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, February 24. Check the Carr v. United States SCOTUSwiki page for additional updates.

The federalization of sex offender policy began in 1994, when Congress passed the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act (Wetterling Act). Twelve years later, Congress expanded and strengthened registration programs in the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which was part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. Among other things, SORNA in 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a) created a new felony that penalizes sex offenders who are required to register under SORNA but knowingly fail to do so after traveling in interstate or foreign commerce. SORNA also authorized the Attorney General to determine whether and how the statute’s registration requirements applied to sex offenders convicted before the statute was enacted; on February 28, 2007, the Attorney General issued a regulation in which he indicated that SORNA’s registration requirements applied to all sex offenders, including those who were convicted prior to the statute’s enactment.

On February 24, in No. 08-1301, Carr v. United States, the Court will consider the application of SORNA’s registration requirements to individuals who not only were convicted before SORNA’s enactment but also traveled before the statute became law. This will be the Court’s first consideration of sex offender registration laws since it upheld two state statutes against Ex Post Facto Clause and due process challenges in 2003.

In 2004, petitioner Thomas Carr was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse in Alabama and registered as a sex offender there after his release from custody. When Carr moved to Indiana at the end of 2004, however, he failed to register there – a failure that was discovered in July 2007, when he was arrested for an unrelated incident. After Carr was indicted for failing to register under SORNA, he moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that his interstate travel pre-dated SORNA and a conviction would thus violate the Ex Post Facto Clause. The motion was denied; Carr entered a conditional guilty plea and appealed the denial.

The Seventh Circuit consolidated the appeal with that of Marcus Dixon, whose offense and travel had also predated SORNA. In his appeal, Dixon made a similar Ex Post Facto argument but also argued that, as a matter of statutory construction, he did not violate SORNA because his travel occurred before the statute was enacted. The Seventh Circuit rejected the Ex Post Facto argument. In its view, such convictions did not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause as long as “at least one of the acts” “required for punishment” takes place after the statute went into effect and the defendant had a “reasonable time” in which to register after the Attorney General issued the regulation. The court of appeals thus affirmed Carr’s conviction, concluding that five months was a “sufficient grace period” in which to register. However, while it also rejected Dixon’s statutory argument, it nonetheless reversed his conviction on the ground that he had not had sufficient time to register.

Carr filed a petition for certiorari, which the Court granted on September 30, 2009. In his opening brief on the merits, Carr argues that SORNA’s use of the present tense “travels” demonstrates that the statute applies only to defendants who engage in current or future travel. Because Section 2250(a)’s other requirements of §2250(a) necessarily refer to post-SORNA activity, the “travels” clause should also be limited to post-SORNA activity. Any ambiguity in the language should be read in his favor, Carr suggests, under the rule of lenity and the presumption against retroactivity.

Carr next argues that SORNA was aimed at interstate travel by unregistered offenders as a harm in itself, which would threaten SORNA’s “uniform system of state registration requirements.” Unlike cases in which Congress has asserted its “full Commerce Clause power” by regulating activities “substantially affecting interstate commerce,” SORNA is limited to offenders who travel “in commerce.” This regulation of the channels of interstate commerce is inherently prospective; Congress cannot “keep these channels free from prior misuse that occurred before enactment of the governing statute.”

Finally, Carr argues that two different interpretations of SORNA both violate the Ex Post Facto Clause. First, even if SORNA merely requires defendants to comply with the Wetterling registration regime, then it impermissibly enhances the penalty for the same crime. Second, if SORNA in fact contemplates a new duty, then Carr was guilty of failing to register at the moment SORNA passed and its retroactive application would thus impose an “impossible duty.” His interpretation, by contrast, is consistent with the canon of constitutional avoidance, while the Seventh Circuit’s construction of the statute as allowing “a reasonable time” amounts to a rewriting of the statute.

In its brief on the merits, the government counters that Section 2250(a) criminalizes a sequence of events: an individual is guilty of failing to register when he first is convicted of a sex offense, then travels, and then knowingly fails to register, even if the travel occurs before SORNA’s enactment. The government argues that this interpretation better effectuates SORNA’s purpose of finding “missing” sex offenders who travel to another state and fail to re-register there. Although Carr suggests that such offenders could still be subject to state prosecution, the government emphasizes that SORNA was enacted precisely because state penalties were inadequate to ensure enforcement of registration requirements.

The government dismisses the canon of constitutional avoidance as inapplicable here. It contends that Congress’s Commerce Clause powers are not implicated by the timing of the travel because the logical connection between a failure to register and interstate travel is unrelated to when the travel occurred. Moreover, there is no “grievous ambiguity” that would justify invoking the rule of lenity.

Finally, the government argues that the law does not operate retroactively for purposes of the Ex Post Facto Clause because the full “course of conduct” criminalized by Section 2250 is not completed until an individual fails to register under SORNA, which necessarily occurs only after the statute’s enactment. The government also distinguishes between offenses under the Wetterling Act and those under SORNA: an individual who cannot register because a state does not have a registry that conforms to the requirements imposed by SORNA may invoke Section 2250(b)’s “uncontrollable circumstances” defense, but he is still liable under SORNA. The government agrees that Congress cannot criminalize conduct in a way that makes it impossible for a defendant to avoid liability, but it describes the allowance of “a reasonable time to comply with a statutory regime” as an uncontroversial “background principle of law.”

Wile this case focuses narrowly on interstate travel with a failure to register, it will be an important case to watch and may give some advance indication of where the Court will weigh-in on other constitutional challenges of SORNA and the Adam Walsh Act.

Ohio SORNA Sex Offender Registration Summary

February 22, 2010 Comments off

From the Vera Institute Report for the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (2008):
The Pursuit of Safety: Sex Offender Policy in the U.S. All states are summarized in this report. We are posting only Ohio’s guidelines here.

SORNA Federal Guidelines

OHIO Guidelines

US DOJ Reports on Sex Offenders

February 22, 2010 Comments off

In 2008, the Vera Institute of Justice produced two survey reports for the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. The first, The Pursuit of Safety: Sex Offender Policy in the U.S. , reviewed federal and state laws concerning sex offenders and the impact of these laws. The second, Treatment and Reentry Practices for Sex Offenders: An Overview of States, analyzed programs for sex offenders in 37 states. Together, the reports provide a look at national trends in responses to sex offenders. This summary highlights their findings.

This summary listed three key findings:

* Policies vary widely in their ability to protect the public, and particularly children, from sexual victimization. Most focus on preventing repeat offenses by strangers, a relatively rare event compared with sex offenses by people known to the victim and the victim’s family.

* Some sex offender policies can have an unintended negative impact on public safety. By making it harder for offenders to find shelter, employment, and social supports, these policies drive some offenders out of contact with authorities.

* More research is needed on how to prevent sex offenses and maximize public safety through more effective policies.

The reports are available at

* – (141 pages)


These reports include a very good summary of the history and background of sex offender laws, and include a state-by-state summary of sex offender laws and registration requirements.


Media Sensationalism: “Some sociologists believe that the recent wave of sex offender laws has been the result of a “moral panic,” an exaggerated public response to a perceived threat. However, as figure 2 shows, 93 percent of offenses against children are committed by family members and acquaintances; the “stranger danger” crimes, which spurred the creation of most sex offense laws, are relatively rare. These observers argue that changes in the media—in particular, the rise of 24/7 cable news stations and Internet news sites have increased public awareness of sex crimes, with the result that many people now believe that crimes against children are on the rise. According to this viewpoint, policymakers have simply responded to the public’s demand for countermeasures. As one legislator recently told a group of researchers, “I can’t go anywhere without someone asking me about some [sex offense] they heard on the news, ‘What are you doing about that?’” Some also point out that the first wave of sex offender laws in the United States—the one that occurred between 1937 and 1955—also coincided with a major advance in communications, the advent of television as a presence in the national media. ”

Recidivism: “However, there is a significant body of research that appears to contradict this proposition. One recent study found that sex offenders had a five-year recidivism rate of 24.5 percent for all offenses and a 2.8 percent recidivism for sexual offenses; in contrast, other felony offenders had a five-year recidivism rate of approximately 48 percent for all offenses.24 Another study found that people arrested for sexual offenses had a five-year offense-specific re-arrest rate (the rate at which they were re-arrested for the same crime within five years) of 6.5 percent. Only people arrested for homicide had a lower five-year offense-specific re-arrest rate (5.7 percent); the rates for robbery, burglary, and public order offenses were 17.9 percent, 23.1 percent, and 21.4 percent, respectively.25 A 1994 study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that 24 percent of sex offenders were convicted of another crime (including but not restricted to sex offenses) within three years; in contrast 46.9 percent of all offenders were convicted of another crime within this period.”

Public Misinformation: “There is some evidence that the general public, in spite of its strong support for tough sexual offense laws, is not well-informed about the nature and extent of sexual offending. One recent study, which compared survey responses with published data, found that the public significantly overstates both the rate at which convicted sex offenders re-offend and the proportion of sexual assaults that are committed by strangers (see figure 3, below). These findings led researchers to conclude that public misperceptions “present a clear challenge to policymakers seeking to create empirically based policies that meet the public’s expectations.” ”

Residency Restrictions: “In spite of their popularity, there is no evidence that residency restrictions are effective in reducing recidivism by sex offenders. Rather, the evidence suggests that residency restrictions are in fact detrimental to public safety. A recent study of sex offenders in Minnesota examined the impact of residency restrictions on recidivism. Researchers found that, of the 3,166 sex offenders who were released from Minnesota correctional facilities between 1990 and 2002—a period when the state did not have residency restrictions—224 had been re-incarcerated for a new sex offense by January 1, 2006. After taking a closer look at these 224 cases, researchers found that none of the offenders had established contact with a child victim in an area that would be likely to fall within an exclusionary zone under a typical residency restriction law.”

“There is little empirical evidence that residency restrictions, as currently implemented, protect public safety. Residency restrictions push sex offenders to the fringes of communities, making it less likely that they will be able to obtain housing, find a job, and receive social support. Restrictions may also make it difficult for otherwise law-abiding offenders to comply with registration requirements—especially those that involve frequent, in-person reporting.”

Fear The Sex Offenders You Know

February 22, 2010 Comments off Fear The Sex Offenders You Know.

A story about a registered sex offender who is accused of taking photos of Girl Scouts in Phoenix has provoked strong reactions from commenters. The commenter “beilstwh” writes about where the most danger to children comes from:

“I have a real problem with people putting their heads in the sand. You don’t have to worry about the strangers molesting your sons and daughters. The overwhelming (about 95%) of molesters are close friends or family members. While well-publicized, the actual attacks by strangers is very low. You need to be worried about the mother or father or brother or sister or the strange uncle or the family friend. That’s who the statistics say will attack your children.”

ID: Man Files Lawsuit over Sex Offender Label

February 22, 2010 Comments off Boise man files suit over sex offender label

Twin Falls, Idaho (AP) – A Boise man has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the state over a suspended policy that led to him being labeled a violent sexual predator.

In court papers, 56-year-old Mark S. Wicklund claims he was damaged by the designation, which is no longer being applied to sex offenders in Idaho.

The Idaho Department of Correction is no longer using the designation after the Idaho Supreme Court determined it had severe constitutional flaws. Department Spokesman Jeff Ray tells the Times-News a new proposal may be ready for the 2011 Legislature. The violent sexual predator designation was intended to identify high-risk offenders.

A 4th District Judge has vacated the designation for Wicklund, who was convicted of sexual battery of a minor in Ada County in 2001.

This is good news and bad news both. This man is suing because an unconstitutional law was applied to label him as a “violent sexual predator”. After the law was defeated in court, he rightly filed suit against the State for damages. Hopefully, as we see these laws defeated in courts across the nation, we will see enormous numbers of lawsuits filed against the States for damages incurred upon individuals by labeling them publicly as dangerous predators online. However, this could also be a reason for unscrupulous courts to become reluctant to find these laws unconstitutional, knowing that their ruling could result in historic liability of the State.

MD: Groups to Oppose Proposed Sex Offender Bills

February 22, 2010 Comments off Groups to oppose proposed sex offender bills.

Sex offenders have been a hot topic in Annapolis this session, with a number of bills submitted and Gov. Martin O’Malley reactivating an advisory board. But several groups plan to oppose the bills Tuesday at a House of Delegates judiciary committee hearing. I’m ripping this straight from the press release I just received from the Justice Policy Institute:

Annapolis, MD – Representatives from the Justice Policy Institute (JPI); American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland; the Maryland Office of the Public Defender; the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN), the Defender Association of Philadelphia and the Office of the Ohio Public Defender will testify Tuesday, February 23 before the Judicial Committee of the Maryland Assembly, as the Committee considers a host of bills aimed at increasing penalties and post-incarceration requirements for people convicted of sex offenses.

In particular, some bills will expand Maryland’s sex offender registries to come into compliance with the controversial federal Adam Walsh Act, which requires states to include many youth on registries. Other bills would limit employment, living, civic and other opportunities for people who have been convicted of a registerable offense.

WHAT: Hearing by the Judicial Committee of the Maryland Assembly on numerous bills related to sex offenses

WHO: Various experts on sex offense policies and Maryland advocates, including:
Amy Borror, Public Information Officer, Office of the Ohio Public Defender, to discuss the failure of Ohio’s sex offender policies and registries to improve public safety (while costing that state millions of dollars);
Nicole Pittman, Esq., Juvenile Justice Policy Analyst attorney, Defender Association of Philadelphia, on the negative impacts of sex offender registries on youth; Sarah Bryer, National Juvenile Justice Network, on developmentally appropriate responses to youth that have committed sex offenses; Tracy Velázquez, Justice Policy Institute, on the research around what policies are effective in promoting public safety, and collateral consequences to youth and adults of registration and other punitive policies; Cindy Boersma, ACLU of Maryland, on the threat of juvenile registries to public safety and the importance of focusing sex offender management on effective prevention and deterrence rather than stigmatization. Laurel Albin, Esq., Maryland Office of the Public Defender, on the dangers of juvenile registries and importance of risk assessment-based sex offender supervision.

WHEN: 1:00 p.m., Tuesday, February 23, 2010

WHERE: Maryland House of Delegates, Judiciary Committee Room, Six Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD