Friday, June 12, 2009

NJ - Lampitt seeks restrictions on sex offenders

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06/12/2009

By ADAM SMELTZ

When the state Supreme Court last month shot down local residency restrictions on sex offenders in Cherry Hill and other towns, Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt (Email) didn't accept defeat.

Instead, the Cherry Hill Democrat said, the court ruling gave the issue renewed urgency. She and legislative allies in Trenton worried that the residency question "would go away" if left alone too long.

This month, she and a half-dozen other Assembly members have signed on as primary sponsors of a fresh attempt to limit where sex offenders can live. The bill, now under consideration in the Assembly, would give municipalities an option to ban the most serious convicted sex offenders from living within 500 feet of any school, playground or child-care center. Those with low-level convictions -- classified as Tier 1 offenders -- would not be affected.

"During the lengthy period of hours when (offenders) are home, we want to make sure they're not in a playground or near a child-care center where kids congregate," Lampitt said.

She said a registered sex offender lives in her Cherry Hill neighborhood. And "when you find out that sort of information, you take an interest in it," she said.

Cherry Hill's residency limits, struck down May 7 by the Supreme Court, kept all convicted sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, playgrounds and houses of worship. The court also repealed similar rules in Galloway Township and, in the process, effectively overturned other residency restrictions in more than 100 other New Jersey towns.

The court wrote that the state Megan's Law preempted the local rules. Adopted in 1994, Megan's Law requires released sex offenders to tell law enforcement where they live and when they move.

The high court, in siding with a lower court decision, agreed that the local rules in Cherry Hill and Galloway interfered with the state's intent "to exclusively regulate this field."

Cherry Hill's ordinance had been in place since 2005.

Township spokesman Dan Keashen said the Cherry Hill administration believes "there needs to be a state solution." He said the township still is reviewing the bill in the Assembly but is generally "happy with the overall template."

Officials in other states have enacted statewide residency limits for sex offenders, though some studies have suggested that such limits can interfere with rehabilitation of sex offenders and may not be a deterrent.

New Jersey towns began to enact their own local restrictions about four years ago. They included Haddonfield, Moorestown, Voorhees and Winslow.

Winslow Township Administrator Joseph Gallagher said the municipality supports the current Assembly bill.

"It's an important issue," he said. "We believe the bill would address the needs, to protect the children in the community."

At the state League of Municipalities in Trenton, Executive Director William Dressel said the organization is concerned that the current bill would not impose a statewide standard. Without a uniform standard, he said, the approach may not stand up to inevitable legal scrutiny.

And that could open individual municipalities to more court challenges, Dressel said.

"We have been very much supportive of all efforts trying to address this issue," said Dressel, whose group helps local governments lobby at the state level.

But "we feel we have an obligation and a duty to also support legislation that will not subject municipalities to additional challenges down the road . . . and the large legal bills associated with those challenges," Dressel said.

The state attorney general's office did not respond to a press inquiry this week, but Lampitt said legislators have consulted with the office on residency restrictions.

She said the bill is designed without a statewide mandate because "each one of the municipalities is so different." Lampitt said the attorney general's office "wouldn't go for" a statewide order.

If the attorney general's office supports the bill, Lampitt said, "then quite possibly the Supreme Court would support it."


"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (Bill Of Rights)


PA - Sunbury to change sex offender law

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06/12/2009

By Marcia Moore

SUNBURY — The city of Sunbury averted a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (Contact) this week by agreeing to revise an ordinance that bans registered sex offenders from loitering near public places where children gather.

The organization threatened to sue the city last week unless it removed or revised what it called an unconstitutional 2006 law prohibiting all registered sex offenders from loitering within 1,000 feet of a public park, playground, school or day care.

The city relented and agreed to remove from the local law any reference to prohibiting the movements of sex offenders, Philadelphia attorney Elizabeth Balakhani said Thursday.

City solicitor Michael Apfelbaum did not return calls Thursday.

Balakhani, who is working with the ACLU, said the law will be revised to specify that only individuals deemed under the state Megan’s Law to be sexually violent offenders would be prohibited from loitering in certain areas in the city where children gather.

As a result, she said, the ACLU has dropped its plan to file a federal lawsuit.

But while “appreciative” of the municipality’s willingness to comply with the ACLU’s request, Balakhani said the matter isn’t completely resolved.

We don’t share the city’s view that prohibiting violent sexual offenders is constitutional, but it no longer applies to our client, so we won’t be filing a lawsuit — for now,” she said.

The ACLU took up the cause for Sunbury resident Teri Jo Hunt, a registered sex offender and mother of four, who was ordered by city police last summer to stay out of public parks and other similar areas in response to a resident complaint after seeing Hunt at a local park with her young son.

Although Hunt was told she could face a maximum 60 days in jail or $500 fine if convicted, the ordinance was never enforced.

The ACLU threatened to take action against the city to ensure Hunt would not face prosecution for violating a law it considers unconstitutional.

The planned revision means that Hunt, and any other sex offender not listed as sexually violent under state law, will no longer be banned from any of the city’s public areas.


"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (Bill Of Rights)


PA - Midland Passes Sex Offender Residency Ordinance

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06/11/2009

By Ralph Iannotti

MIDLAND (KDKA) - The small borough of Midland joined a growing list of Beaver County communities with sex offender residency laws.

The Midland ordinance, approved on a 6-0 vote, prohibits registered violent sex offenders from living within 500 feet of schools, churches, playgrounds, and other places where children are likely to congregate.

Other Beaver County communities within similar laws include Rochester, Pulaski and Harmony Townships, Baden and Ambridge.

Several residents in Midland told KDKA-TV said they were supportive of the residency law.

Violators of the ordinance face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail.

Video Link



"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (Bill Of Rights)


Office of Justice - SMART - Case Law Updates




The following web page, brought to my attention from Sex Crimes blog, has many PDF documents, about the many court cases pertaining to sex offender laws. And you can apparently sign up for email updates.

The links below are PDF files and you will need Adobe Acrobat to view the files.  If you need this software, then click here to visit their web site to download it.

Case Law Updates:

Sorted from most current to the oldest:


"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (Bill Of Rights)