By DON AINES
‘If they commit a crime, any crime, they can become registerable for their former offense’
Changes in Maryland’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification law took effect Friday and will add new offenses that require people to register, including possession of child pornography, and increase the number of years offenders spend on the list.
“It absolutely will expand the number of people included in the registry,” Washington County Deputy State’s Attorney Joseph Michael said Thursday.
Not only will new offenders be added to the registry, but the law allows some offenders to be added retroactively, Michael said.
- And adding people retroactively, is an ex post facto law, which is FORBIDDEN by the US and State Constitutions. So apparently, the Constitution is not worth the paper and ink it's written with, nor are the oaths of office.
Someone convicted of possession of child pornography, for example, would not have been required to register under the old law, Michael said. However, if that person is in prison, on parole or on supervised probation for an offense predating the law’s effective date of Oct. 1, they will be required to register for 15 years, he said.
Even past sexual offenders who served their sentences and no longer are on probation or parole could find themselves having to register if they commit a new crime, Michael said.
“If they commit a crime, any crime, they can become registerable for their former offense,” Michael said.
Another offense added to the list is fourth-degree sexual offense, a crime that can include a wide range of nonviolent sexual offenses, including sexual contact without the consent of the victim and statutory sexual crimes, such as sexual contact between a victim ages 14 or 15 and a perpetrator four or more years older, according to state law.
Registration periods also will last longer. Under the old law, the terms were either 10 years or life on the registry, depending on the seriousness of the offense. Now, the law has three tiers, based on the levels of offense, of 15 years, 25 years and life.
Tier I includes offenses such as possession of child pornography, fourth-degree sex offense and visual surveillance with prurient intent, according to a summary of the law. Tier II lists offenses such as distribution of child pornography and sexual solicitation of a minor, while Tier III offenses include rape, incest, kidnapping, forcible sodomy and other felonies.
After 10 years, a Tier I registrant may petition the state to have their name removed from the registry, if required conditions are met, a summary of the law states.
Some offenders have attempted to avoid the registration requirements through the courts, Michael said.
Brian Hanford Murphy, a former Maryland state trooper who was convicted of possession of child pornography in 2007, filed a motion to accelerate the hearing date on a motion to modify his sentence so that he would not have to register, according to Washington County District Court records. The motion noted that “one section of the new law requires Murphy to register as of Oct. 1, 2010,” despite the fact that he was not required to register at the time of his conviction.
- And that goes against the Constitution!
“Should Murphy’s probation be terminated or switched to unsupervised as of Sept. 29, 2010, the retroactive provision of the new statute becomes inapplicable,” the petition stated.
Murphy’s hearing is scheduled for Nov. 18, court records show.
In July, former Boonsboro Middle School teacher [name withheld] petitioned unsuccessfully for a declaratory judgment to have his name removed from the registry, Washington County Circuit Court records show. [name withheld]’ petition noted the crime he pleaded guilty to in 2006, custodial child abuse, did not required him to register.
The changes bring the Maryland law into compliance with the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which was intended to impose a more-consistent national standard for registration of sex offenders, according to a Sept. 22 letter from Maryland Sex Offender Registry Manager Elizabeth Bartholomew to Washington County State’s Attorney Charles P. Strong Jr.
Federal justice assistance grants to states were tied to complying with SORNA, the letter said.