Wednesday, January 20, 2010

AL - Sex offender property could be seized under Alabama House bill

Original Article


MONTGOMERY - Adults using a computer to solicit a juvenile for sexual activity could find themselves without a home, car or computer.

The Alabama House voted 95-0 to pass a bill by Democratic Rep. Ken Guin (Email) of Carbon Hill that allows authorities to confiscate the property of a person convicted of using a computer to lure a young person to meet for sexual reasons.

An exception is the house, car or other property can't be confiscated if it is needed by a spouse or child who did not know the computer was being used to solicit a child.

The bill was originally sponsored by Democratic Rep. Lea Fite of Jacksonville. Fite died of a heart attack in October. The bill was named the Lea Fite Child Protection Act.

CA - California Supreme Court Oral Arguments (11-03-2009)

Click the images to view the videos online

Part 1

Part 2

ME - Lawmakers Debate Changes to State's Sex Offender Registry

Original Article


By A.J. Higgins

Facing a March 31st deadline from the Maine Supreme Court, a legislative committee began the process today of making changes to the state's sex offender registry. Last month, the high court ruled that a 1999 law requiring certain sex offenders to be placed on a sex offender registry for life cannot be applied retroactively . Lawmakers must now strike a delicate balance between public safety and convicts' rights.

Last month's Maine Supreme Court ruling on the constituionality of the state's Sex Offender Registration Notification Act found that a retroactive provision to the law that was passed in 1999, and subjects hundreds of sex offenders to lifetime registration, violated the convicts' rights. What the court didn't provide was a solution.

"What we have is this 56-page decision, but we can't call them up and say, 'How about this part of it? How about that part of it? Can we do this, but not that?' So there's a bit of a gamble," says Maine Attorney General Janet Mills (Contact). Mills is working with members of the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee to bring the law in line with the state constitution.

Mills thinks there are several ways to accomplish that goal and remove dozens of people from the registry, wich is now about 3,000 names long. Mills says one of the thorniest issues for the court involves reporting requirements that were imposed by lawmakers in 2005.

Those requirements were the focal point in a Supreme Court appeals case brought by _____. _____ was 19 when he was convicted of rape in 1996 for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Under the Legislature's new rules, _____ went from being a 15-year registrant to a lifetime registrant who had to report to police every 90 days.

"And no opportunity for a waiver, when in fact, when he was convicted of his crime, he had the opportunity for a waiver after five years -- he could petition the court for a waiver," Mills says. "That was taken away from him, he was required to go to the police department every 90 days, submit to a sort of booking-type process, and he was required to do this for the rest of his life."

"It comes down to what I've seen on a number of occasions in this committee and other places in the Legislature --trying to strike that balance betweeen public safety and the rights, in this particular situation, of the convicted, and that's a difficult task," says State Rep. Richard Sykes (Email), a Harrison Republican.

Sykes says his committee faces a huge challenge in the weeks ahead, but he says he intends to make sure that Maine's SORNA law leaves the committee with its teeth intact. "One of the options that we don't have is to do nothing -- I think this committee's got to respond philosophically and personally," he says. "I think that the sex offender registry has a public safety purpose and I think that's been affirmed by the court."

But in an exhange with Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, state Rep. Gary Plummer (Email), a Windham Republican, pointed out that the panel's best efforts would go nowhere if they weren't supported by the governor. Two years ago, Baldacci pocket-vetoed a bill that revised the law on the basis that it would remove nearly 600 convicts from the registry. Plummer recalled that the governor's action followed nearly a year of work by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

"If this committee is successful in putting together a bill that passes both the House and Senate, but for whatever reason the second floor feels that it's not appropriate, and chooses not to veto -- which we'd have some action over -- but does a pocket veto, where would that leave us?" Plummer asked.

"Limbo, limbo again," Mills said.

But State. Sen. Stan Gerzovsky (Contact), a Brunswick Democrat and co-chair of the committee, says this year, things will be different. "This time we're going to do it with the Attorney General's Office at the table, but we're also going to have the governor's office at the table, because the last thing we need to do is to hit March 31st and have a bill come out of this committee that doesn't meet the governor's requirements," Gerzovsky says.

Zach Heiden, of the Maine Civil Liberties Union (Email), says most of the problems with the state's SORNA law stem from the revisions that made the policy retroactive to 1982. He thinks there is a simple answer -- but it would also remove hundreds of offenders from the online registry. "What seems like the easiest course of action here is to just, when you're imposing burdens like that, make them imposed at the time of enactment, and that sets up other constitutional issues, but this 'ex post facto' problem would go away."

Members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee plan to convene a series of meetings to devise a legislative solution that will satisfy the constituional objections to the law.

Video Link

Video Link

OH - Sex Offender Clinic Near Local Elementary

Anybody who calls kids "candy" should be in treatment, and I'm glad he is.

Video Link

MO - City Police First To Make Arrest Using New ‘Spoofing’ Law

Original Article


By Jamie Mock

Missouri City Police Department’s arrest of a Stafford man for Internet harassment and “spoofing” was the first of its kind in Texas using a new law that went into effect Sept. 1 of last year. The crime is so new that police had to call Austin to figure out how to get the charge entered into computers because a number had yet to be assigned.

Years ago, Missouri City police were also the first to charge someone with failure to register as a sex offender.

All of the benefits of technology also come with a price – for every new and innovative way discovered to communicate and do business, criminals will find new and innovative ways to use the technology for malicious purposes.

The Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2003 as an effort to keep up with how the Internet and electronic communication have changed the ways people can harass and possibly harm one another.

The new section in the penal code makes “Online Harassment” a crime, and deals with two separate issues.

The first makes it a third degree felony to use someone else’s identity to create a web page or message on a commercial social networking site without that person’s consent and with malicious intent. “Commercial Networking” includes Internet sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

The second section deals with what is called “spoofing,” now a Class A Misdemeanor. Spoofing is when someone sends an electronic message, such as an e-mail or an instant message, pretending to be someone else. If the intent of the message was to solicit a response from emergency personnel, it is a third degree felony.

Wesley Wittig, an assistant district attorney with the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office, said that prosecuting new crimes does not neccessarily present any difficulties, as the law is clear on what constitutes each crime. The difference with new charges is that there is no history of rulings that attorneys can use for research when preparing.

Missouri City police charged 54-year-old Stafford resident John Johnson with Internet Harassment and spoofing earlier this month, after they say he set up a fake dating site account and posed as the victim while instant messaging.

Missouri City police were called by a nervous and scared 35-year-old Missouri City woman who told police she received a phone call from a strange man who told her he had just been to her house, and no one answered the door. He told her he even tried the front door, but it was locked.

She asked the stranger where she lived, and he gave her the correct address. She told him she didn’t know who he was, and he said he had been having Instant Messaging conversations with her on the computer after having met her on the Internet dating site Plenty of Fish. He told her she invited him over.

The victim knew nothing about the man, the site or the alleged conversations.

After investigating, police say Johnson set up a fake account on the dating site, complete with photos of the victim and her correct home address, cell phone number and location of her work. Johnson is the boyfriend of the victim’s boyfriend’s mother, who apparently wanted to end the relationship between her son and the victim.

It is still unclear who was pretending to be the victim during the online conversations.

IA - Panel: Rethink lifetime supervision for sex offenders

Original Article



Lawmakers should revise state law to limit the number of sex offenders subject to lifetime supervision, focusing the state's scarce resources on the highest-risk offenders, a state panel recommended Tuesday.

The move comes after a Des Moines Register probe in July showed Iowa's experiment with lifetime monitoring of sex offenders would cost at the very minimum about $168 million over the next 20 years.

Iowa's Sex Offender Research Council also advocated greater prevention efforts and additional research on how best to monitor offenders.

But state Rep. Clel Baudler (Email), who has long served on the House public safety committee, said he has heard no proposals thus far aimed at recommendations from the panel.

"We have to fix a couple things regarding the treatment of out-of-state sex offenders, but that's all for now as far as I know," said Baudler, R-Greenfield. "Whether they will want changes after seeing this report, I don't know."

Steve Scott of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa (Contact) said sex-abuse prevention groups like his will be lucky to keep what state funding they have this year.

"If we get through without it getting cut, that will be a major success," he said.

The council was assembled to gather research in the wake of several high-profile sex-abuse tragedies and subsequent changes to state law. It included representation from 16 state agencies, legislators and other groups involved with sex offenders.

One law change that quietly went into effect in 2006 required most sex offenders to serve "special sentences" after completing their original prison or probation sentences. The law was intended to better protect Iowa children from sexual predators, who previously could walk out of prison after serving their time with few restrictions.
- Just more ignoring the constitution's ex post facto, due process, and other aspects, for false security.  Why do these people even take an "oath of office" to "uphold the constitution?"  It's worthless!

But since then, the number of offenders under 10-year and lifetime monitoring has grown from six in 2007 to 113 by September last year. By 2019, the number under 10-year supervision is expected to grow to 962, while those under lifetime probation will grow to 954.

The report also said lawmakers should reconsider the wisdom of subjecting juveniles to registration and residency requirements. The council said more juveniles are being adjudicated for sex offenses, but research shows only a small number commit new crimes as adults.
- The same studies have been done on adults as well, with the same results, so why do you ignore that?

Before revisions in Iowa's sex offender laws last summer, some 42 of the 5,041 offenders on the registry were juveniles. Prior to that, only 27 of 312 juveniles adjudicated for sex offenses from fiscal year 2006 to 2008 were placed on the registry.

The law change took away juvenile court discretion in placing juveniles 14 or older on the sex-offender registry for certain offenses. More offenders ages 14 and 15 are winding up on the registry as a result.
- So you see, the laws made to "protect" children are harming them and ruining their lives!

Sex offenders behind bars: How long?

Original Article


Using the civil commitment process to lengthen a criminal sentence is dishonest and dangerous.

When we learned that the Supreme Court was reviewing a law that allows the federal government to confine prisoners indefinitely even after they have completed their prison sentences, we naturally assumed that the legal issue involved due process for the prisoner.
- Never assume anything when it comes to the government!

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case last week when the court heard arguments over the constitutionality of the indefinite detention of "sexually dangerous" prisoners. The justices' questions mostly focused on whether Washington, as opposed to the states, has the authority to do so -- not whether indefinite detention is allowable.

That issue of federalism isn't unimportant, but the more pressing question is whether civil commitment for a mental condition is being misused to force felons to remain in prison after they've completed their legal sentences.

The court gave states that power in 1997 when it ruled 5 to 4 that Kansas had properly committed a sex offender who was about to be released. The state had enacted a law allowing for the confinement in a state hospital of "any person who has been convicted of or charged with a sexually violent offense and who suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder which makes the person likely to engage in the predatory acts of sexual violence." As Justice Stephen G. Breyer noted in his dissent, the commitment in that case "was not simply an effort to commit [the prisoner] civilly, but rather an effort to inflict further punishment upon him." The same abuse of civil commitment is possible under the federal statute being challenged on federalism grounds.

Given the conventional (though disputed) consensus that all sex offenders are incorrigible, it's not surprising that officials would try to use the civil commitment process to dispense with the protections of criminal law. To convict a defendant of rape or child molestation, prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt . Under the law being reviewed by the Supreme Court, the government merely needed to show "clear and convincing evidence" of an inmate's dangerousness.

The federal government and the states have rightly adopted a harder line against sex offenses, and have in some cases subjected offenders -- even those who have served their sentences -- to registration and monitoring. But using the civil commitment process to lengthen a criminal sentence is dishonest and dangerous. If the court were to strike down this section of the 2006 law, both Washington and the states might take a new look at this problem and better balance constitutional rights and public safety.
- Um, this article seems to be missing other aspects, like violation of constitutional rights, due process, ex post facto issues, etc, etc. You cannot side step some of the constitution for some things and not others. Either the constitution applies or it doesn't. You cannot have it both ways!