Sunday, October 14, 2012

PA - Megan's Law just got tougher

Original Article

Of course it did! Every year the politicians need something that will help them get re-elected.

10/13/2012

By Kevin Amerman

Changes will force more defendants to register as sex offenders; thousands of appeals could result.

When former DeSales University custodian [name withheld] was sentenced to jail in September for secretly filming partially naked co-workers — one while she pumped breast milk — there was no mention in court that he would have to register with the state as a sex offender.

That's because he doesn't have to — yet.

But come December, [name withheld] and scores of others will have to register as sex offenders under sweeping changes to the state's Megan's Law. The changes, which will take effect Dec. 20, will increase the number of years sex offenders have to register and broaden the law to include more crimes, such as invasion of privacy.
- Just more of the usual unconstitutional ex post facto laws.  I sure hope invasion of privacy is defined and must be sexual in nature, otherwise there is going to be a lot of people put onto the online hit-list who do not need to be there.

Under Megan's Law, photos and addresses of registered offenders are placed on the Megan's Law website, for everyone to see and defendants face penalties for failing to register properly or on time.

Authorities say the changes are necessary to close major loopholes. Under the current law, out-of-state sex offenders who move to Pennsylvania are not required to register and homeless people are exempt. The new law closes those loopholes and also forces sex offenders to register for longer and update their information more frequently — as often as four times a year.

Some of the new crimes listed as Megan's Law offenses deal with custody interference and unlawful restraint of a child. Others don't necessarily have to involve minors.
- Unlawful restraint of a child could be you catching kids in your yard tearing it up, and you hold them until police arrive, which you've now committed a crime that will label you a sex offender when nothing sexual was involved.  Well, that is how I read it, which may not be true, since they did not link to the new law to be read by others.

"We used to think of Megan's Law as protection against pedophiles," Lehigh County Chief Deputy District Attorney Matthew Falk said. "It has expanded beyond that."
- And still the media continues to use the term pedophile when referring to those labeled sex offender, even when no sex was involved, thus keeping the hysteria alive, which is probably their intention.

But defense attorneys say the changes may violate some offenders' rights, mainly because the new law is retroactive for some offenders. Anyone serving jail time on the newly included crimes or serving probation or parole on them will now have to register — a move some attorneys say is sure to set off a firestorm of appeals.

[name withheld], 33, pleaded guilty to invasion of privacy. His attorney, Jay Nigrini, said he advised [name withheld] of the possibility he may have to register as a sex offender under the new law. The changes show [name withheld] will have to register for 15 years.

If that happens, Nigrini said he likely would appeal. He figures others will too.

"There are going to be problems with this logistically, absolutely," Nigrini said. "This will be litigated all the way to the Supreme Court."
- Everybody in this state should sue the government, if possible, and file a lawsuit.  When you make it hurt financially, then it will make them think and possibly repeal the law.

One major problem, Nigrini said, is that nothing had been put on the record about Megan's Law registration during his client's guilty plea hearing and hearings for thousands of others like him. Therefore, it wasn't part of the deal and may be unconstitutional, he said.
- If it wasn't a law when the person was convicted and sentenced, then it's unconstitutional.

Lehigh County public defender Earl Supplee said it's simply not fair to retroactively force people to register as sexual offenders.

"I don't think it's right to increase penalties retroactively," he said. "The question is: Is Megan's Law [registration] a punishment?"
- Of course it is.  If you have to live with the insane restrictions, then you would know that.

Supplee said defendants who pleaded guilty or no contest to offenses that didn't require them to register as sex offenders might argue that they wouldn't have entered the pleas had they known they'd have to register.

"The person could say, 'I would have fought the case if it was a Megan's Law case,'" Supplee said. "That's where I think you could have legitimate constitutional challenges."
- As you should!  Everybody should take this to court!

Supplee said appeals courts could rule that registering as a sex offender is not a punishment and is a "collateral consequence" and can therefore be applied. Collateral consequences are considered non-direct results of prosecutions that are not part of a sentence. They can include the loss of a certain license, welfare benefits, voting rights or deportation and are viewed as being beyond the realm of a sentencing judge.
- So what they are basically saying is, anything goes!  Imaging if they added more punishment onto all other criminals?  We'd have so many law suits in the system, that the system goes broke, and crashes!

Lehigh County Judge Douglas G. Reichley, who was a state representative when the bill was passed, said he doesn't recall any concerns expressed by lawmakers that retroactive registration could violate a defendant's rights.
- It doesn't matter if there are or aren't concerns!  If you read and know the constitution, and are defending it, like you took an oath to do, then you'd see it's unconstitutional.

Drastic changes

The law's changes, based on the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, create three tiers of offenders with registration requirements of 15 years, 25 years or life. Currently there are two types of registration: 10 years or life.


AUSTRALIA - Sex offender website goes online

Are all the people on the list really pedophiles, or are some non-pedophiles? I am willing to bet most are not true pedophiles, so stop putting everyone into one category, they are not all pedophiles. It's disinformation like this from the media that causes the vigilantism in the first place. Send these idiots an email: Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo News

Audio:


Video Description:
Police are warning against vigilante action when the State Government's new sex offender website comes online on Monday.


Pariahs among us: Sex offender laws in the 21st century

Original Article

Why is it that those outside the US can see the draconian nature of these laws, but we cannot?

10/14/2012

By Charlotte Silver

Stringent sex offender laws in the United States destroy lives and do little to mitigate repeat offences.

Maybe it is not so surprising that all we can think to do with a subject we are simultaneously obsessed with and repulsed by is publicise it at every opportunity.

Sex crimes: The only kind of offence in the United States that compels all convicted perpetrators to register their name, address, date of birth, fingerprints and a photograph on a public website.

And what constitutes a sex crime? The breadth of this damning classification is alarming and includes public urination, consensual teen sex, sale of sex and exposure of genitals (including in the case of children) - as well as violent rape.

One poignant example of the irrationality and senseless devastation of overreaching sex offender laws is the story of Evan B, as told by (PDF) Lara Geer Farley. When Evan was in high school he was arrested for exposing himself to a group of his female peers. A court sentenced him to four months in prison, but after he was released he was obliged to register as a sex offender. The stigma drove Evan to drop out of school, leave his home in Salina, Oklahoma and move to Tulsa, where the arduous requirements associated with his sex offender status meant that he could not maintain employment. A month before he should have turned 20, Evan shot and killed himself.

And this: A comprehensive Human Rights Watch report, published in 2007, draws attention to the common case of teenage boys aged 15, 16, 17, who have consensual sex with their teenaged girlfriends, finding themselves charged with pedophilia. They will be labelled and publicly registered as "pedophiles" for the rest of their lives.

In some states, boys as young as 10 who expose themselves to their female friends or relatives are forced to register as a "sex offender" before they understand what sex - or exposure - is.


TX - Registration system does not fit all sex offenders

Danny Alexander
Original Article

Wow, it's good to finally hear a decent and fair article on ex-sex offenders by someone in a position of authority.

10/13/2012

Editor’s Note: This guest column is in response to the AGN editorial: “Sex offender program needs federal review,” Oct. 6, amarillo.com.

It is true that tracking registered sex offenders is expensive and costly to taxpayers.

Law enforcement agencies all across the U.S. continue to see the number of convicted sex offenders grow. Most offenders are sentenced to some jail time and/or probation, but most receive a lifetime order to register as a sex offender.

I have been the sex offender registrar for the Randall County Sheriff’s Office since 2001.

I am responsible for all sex offenders who live in rural Randall County outside the city limits of Amarillo and Canyon. In 2001, Randall County had approximately 25 registered sex offenders living in the rural part of the county. Today, that number has tripled to 75.

The sex offender registration system is broken nationwide.

Most people think that if a person is a registered sex offender, that offender cannot live in close proximity to schools, day cares, parks, etc. That is not the case. The location where a sex offender lives or works can only be dictated if the offender is on supervised release and if it is in the terms of his/her probation or parole requirements. Once a sex offender is off parole or probation, he/she can live where they like.

The main reason the system is broken is because the system is clogged with offenders who are not true sexual predators. There are hundreds of cases where a young offender had consensual sex with his underage girlfriend — she being 16 and him being 20 constitutes an aggravated sexual assault of child charge. There are cases where girls lie about their age or go to bars with fake identifications and participate in consensual sex. The male will still be charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child and will have to register for life if convicted. The girls have no culpability according to the law. The sex offenders in these types of cases are not sexual predators.

I have had two cases in the past where the offender was married to his victim, but he still had to register for life. These are just of few of many scenarios that make the current sex offender registration system inadequate.

Once a young man or woman is convicted of a sex offense in these circumstances, their ability to be a productive citizen is quite diminished. They have received a life sentence and will find it difficult to find a decent job. There is much hysteria connected to the label of registered sex offender. They are not all child molesters or rapists. In fact, of all the offenders that I register right now, 75 percent are not sexual predators and will likely never offend again. Many of these registrants have no other criminal record other than the sex offense.

In my opinion, the last thing we need is for the federal government to dictate sex offender registration rules to the states. Texas has a decent system in place, but the sheer numbers we in law enforcement have to deal with is staggering.

The solution is to put in place a system, whether locally or nationally, where the true sexual predators are dealt with differently than the one-time offenders. The way it is now, the system is not fair and just. Plus, it is costly and impossible to manage.

Our justice system works because criminals are charged in relation to the seriousness of their crimes, i.e. misdemeanors, felonies, etc. In sex offender registration, all offenders are treated equally regardless of the circumstances of the cases. Once an offenders name, address and photograph appear on a public sex offender website, they are branded for life as a sexual predator whether they are or are not.

Danny Alexander is a deputy and Public Information Officer for the Randall County Sheriff’s Office.


MN - Sex offender panel is clear on gravity of its assignment

Original Article

10/13/2012

By GAIL ROSENBLUM

Before reconvening after a brief coffee break Thursday, retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Eric Magnuson joked about the robust debate he'd just had over the quality of the cookies being passed around.

It was a welcome moment of levity in a three-hour discussion carrying tremendous weight. Everybody felt it.

Magnuson serves as chair of the newly appointed Sex Offender Civil Commitment Task Force. The 15-member panel, meeting for the first time Oct. 11, was appointed by Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson to do something many in the state have grown impatient to see:

Rethink and revise our civil commitment and referral process for sex offenders who, in Minnesota, pretty much never get out.

Minnesota has the most sex-offender civil commitments, per capita, in the country, with just over 600 men and at least one woman living in the Minnesota Sex Offenders Program (MSOP) in Moose Lake and St. Peter. Only two have been released.

Jesson was ordered to convene the task force by Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, in light of a class-action lawsuit by patients who claim that keeping them indefinitely in treatment lockup after they've completed their prison sentences is unconstitutional.

Their plea has been far-reaching. In June, a high court in England refused to send an accused pedophile back to Minnesota because he might end up in MSOP. That, the justices said, would be a "flagrant denial" of his human rights. Others call MSOP "Guantanamo."

Until recent years, though, few cared. It's hard to talk about sex offenders without feeling panicked. It's hard to be a lawmaker who seems soft on crime. That's why this panel deserves our attention and support.

Made up of politicians from both parties, as well as judges, public safety officials, and experts in mental health and sexual rehabilitation, the panel is moving forward assertively, thoughtfully and collaboratively.

They agree that change is needed. They're just not sure yet what that change should look like or how they will balance public safety with constitutional rights.

Their first set of recommendations for "less-restrictive" options than a secure treatment facility is due Dec. 3.

"Our goal is to be as transparent as possible," said Magnuson. The panel meets again Nov. 1 and Nov. 15. Retired U.S. District Judge James Rosenbaum is vice chair.

"We need to have a solution that can be explained sensibly," Magnuson said, "so that people understand why we're proposing what we're proposing,"

He and others noted during the meeting that it would be unwise to underestimate Minnesotans, who "by and large, are open and thoughtful."

Still, he said, "this is a very emotional issue."

The sex offender program was created in 1994 to treat a small number of the state's worst sex offenders who had completed their prison sentences but were deemed too dangerous to release.

But the 2003 killing of college student Dru Sjodin by Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., a rapist newly released from prison, prompted a surge of commitments of all types, from rapists to nonviolent molesters. Commitment numbers ballooned from about 15 annually before 2003 to 50 a year.

Each patient costs the state about $120,000, compared to about $30,000 for treatment of sex offenders in state prisons.

But cost is only one factor pushing change. The program designed to be transitional has become permanent.

As Star Tribune colleague Larry Oakes wrote in his 2008 series, "The New Life Sentence," costs are soaring, treatments are sporadic and inefficient, and questions are mounting.

"There has to be a truce," said task force member Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka. "We have to remove the politics."

Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, agrees. "The way we got here is by making adjustments under duress, when a really horrific thing has happened and people, understandably, have feelings of desire for retribution. But that's not a good time to make policy."

A step back, with time to reflect, can lead to better alternatives which will, in fact, keep us safer. Many members were eager to learn about successful rehabilitation programs in other states and ways to reintegrate patients into community halfway houses without facing inevitable cries of not-in-my-backyard. Others noted a need for greater consistency in referrals between counties.

More ideas are certain to arise in coming weeks, but the work is heady and the time is short.

"We've been going toward this for a long time," Lourey said. "I'm very glad to be taking it seriously and having a bipartisan buy-in. We can do this," Lourey said. "We can."