Wednesday, February 16, 2011

LA - Federal lawsuit challenges sex offender registration for prostitutes

Original Article
Human rights group suing state over ‘discriminating’ prostitution law

02/16/2011

By Laura Maggi

People who must register as sex offenders because they were convicted of engaging in oral or anal sex for money filed a lawsuit against state officials last night, arguing the requirement is unconstitutional and discriminatory.

Only in Louisiana can people convicted of selling their bodies be required to register as a sex offender, according to the lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights. The plaintiffs include several women from New Orleans and the surrounding areas, as well as transgender women and a man.

The registration requirement only affects people prosecuted under the state's crime against nature by soliciation law, which is used when a person is accused of engaging in oral or anal sex in exchange for money. People accused of prostitution, which includes any sex act, are not required to register.

Alexis Agathocleous, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed the lawsuit, called the legal distinction "archiac and discriminatory" and rooted in homophobia.

The lawsuit was filed against state and local officials, including Governor Bobby Jindal and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

The lawsuit was filed anonymously, but describes the difficulty the plaintiffs have experienced obtaining work and finding housing because they are registered sex offenders. In Louisiana, the driver's license of a registered sex offender is inscribed with those words in bright orange letters. Registered sex offenders appear in a state database and must notify neighbors of their legal status.

At a news conference in front of federal court in New Orleans, attorneys for the plaintiffs said the registration requirement erects "insurmountable barriers" to people who are trying to restart their lives. In New Orleans, nearly 40 percent of the people registered as sex offenders are on the registry because of a crime against nature conviction.

The label of sex offender often keeps people from being able to access drug treatment or domestic violence services, said Deon Haywood, director of Women With A Vision, a New Orleans non-profit organization, which works with women trying to leave prostitution.

"The toll it takes is devastating," Haywood said about the registration requirements. "They did what they did to survive and put food on the table."

Louisiana is the only state that has separate laws depending on what kind of sex acts a prostitute engages in, according to the lawsuit. Prostitution can cover any kind of sex for money. But people accused of offering oral or anal sex for money can be charged with "crime against nature by solicitation."

The Legislature in the last session changed the penalties for "crime against nature by solicitation" to make the first offense a misdemeanor, which matches the potential sentence for first-offense prostitution. Previously, a first conviction of crime against nature was a felony.

But while a person convicted of prostitution is not required to register as a sex offender. a defendant convicted repeatedly of crime against nature by solicitation would have to register, according to the lawsuit. Plus, people who were convicted once of crime against nature before last year, when the law was changed, still must remain on Louisiana's sex offender registry.

With the exception of crime against nature, all of the other offenses that require registration as a sex offender in Louisiana involve some kind of force, coercion, or exploitation of a minor, according to the lawsuit. These offenses include, for example, rape, aggravated kidnapping of a child or prostitution of a person under 17.


UK - Sex offender registration appeals to go ahead

Original Article

View the two videos at the link above.

02/16/2011

Thousands of sex offenders in England and Wales are set to be given the right to appeal against having to register with the police for life.

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Home Secretary Theresa May said the government would make the "minimum possible changes" to comply with a 2010 Supreme Court ruling.

She said ministers were "appalled" by the ruling and the bar for appeals would be set as "high as possible".

Sex offenders will only be able to appeal 15 years after leaving prison.

The Supreme Court ruled that denying offenders the right of appeal was incompatible with their human rights.

Only individuals sentenced to more than 30 months for a sex-related crime are required to register with police for life.

It is estimated that about 24,000 sex offenders who were required to register for life, including paedophiles and rapists, could be affected by the ruling.

Qualifying sex offenders are currently required to notify the police of their personal details, any change of address and when they travel abroad.

There is no centrally held register of sex offenders in the UK, but the Home Office says the system of notifying the police is commonly known as the sex offenders register.

Test cases

Last year, two convicted sex offenders used human rights laws to challenge the system and won the right to appeal against their life-long registration.

The two offenders were a teenager convicted of rape and a 59-year-old man guilty of indecent assault.

The teenage boy, known only as F, had been jailed for 30 months in October 2005, aged 11, for raping a six-year-old boy.

The second case involved a man named [name withheld], who was jailed in 1996 for five years.

Both the offenders said their life-long registration with no chance of a review was a disproportionate interference in their family lives.

In the case of F, he said he had been prevented from taking a family holiday abroad and from playing rugby league.

'Minimum changes'

Mrs May told the Commons the government was "appalled" by the ruling but there was no possibility of further appeal.

"This government is determined to do everything we can to protect the public from predatory sexual offenders," she said. "And so we will make the minimum possible changes to the law in order to comply with this ruling."

She said the Scottish government had already amended its laws to allow convicted adults to seek a review after 15 years on the sex offenders register, but the rules in England and Wales would be "much tougher".

"Offenders can only apply for consideration of removal after waiting 15 years following release from custody - in England and Wales there will be no automatic appeals," she said.

"The final decision of whether an offender should remain on the register will be down to the police, not the courts as in Scotland."

"There will be no right of appeal against the police's decision to keep an offender on the register. That decision will be final."

She added the government was about to launch a consultation on closing down "four existing loopholes" in the registration system, including making it compulsory for offenders to notify the police if they intended to travel abroad for even one day, as opposed to the current three days or more.

BBC political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue said the ruling meant ministers were now "committed to introducing a review process".

"They were due to bring proposals forward around now to amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003 but government sources have told the BBC an appeal system won't be introduced to Parliament until the spring," he said.

He added the move was likely to infuriate backbenchers on both sides of the Commons who last week registered their disapproval over plans to give prisoners the vote in elections following legal decisions based on human rights laws.

Mark Williams-Thomas, a former police officer who worked in child protection, is concerned about the decision - particularly in relation to child sex offenders.

"These people are like leopards, they don't change their spots," he said.

"What we will end up with is potentially a very dangerous situation where someone has committed offences in the past and be able to say they haven't committed any new offences and therefore don't present a risk."

"But they are a risk in the same way as an alcoholic is always an alcoholic."


WY - Wyoming teen sex registry bill moves forward

Original Article

02/15/2011

By JOSHUA WOLFSON

CASPER — A bill that would require teenagers who commit violent sex crimes to register as sex offenders cleared a state legislative committee Monday.

Under the legislation, neighbors, school officials and law enforcement would be notified of certain juvenile sex offenders living in the community. But those teenagers would not be listed on the state's online database.

Wyoming currently does require juveniles to register as sex offenders.

The legislation, which was passed unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee, is designed to bring Wyoming into compliance with federal guidelines for sex offender registration. The bill would require all sex offenders to register e-mail accounts, online user names and their work or school addresses.

The committee, however, amended the bill to keep offenders' Internet identifiers and phone numbers off the public database. Instead, that information would be kept by law enforcement.

Last month, the House Judiciary Committee stripped the juvenile registration provisions from the bill. When it reached the House floor, Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, amended the bill to include juveniles again.

Under his amendment, only teens who commit certain violent crimes, such as sexual assault and kidnapping, would be required to register. After 10 years, juveniles could also petition to have their names removed from the registry.

The House passed that version of the bill in late January.

"I think we've narrowly construed it down to just the juveniles that have committed heinous sexual assaults -- these are your most serious sexual assaults," Gingery said Monday. "And I think the neighbors have a right to know if there is a 17-year-old living next door that might abuse their 6-year-olds."

"We understand the argument on the other side that those offenders could be victims themselves, coming back to school. So we made sure they're not on the website — all we're doing is telling the neighbors about them, and we're telling youth organizations."

Juvenile crimes are normally kept private so teenagers have an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves, said Linda Burt, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Wyoming. Informing neighbors and others about a teenager's crimes will keep that from happening, she contends.

"They are bullied, they are harassed and they are pushed out of their communities because of this information," she said.

Sex offender registration laws across the country have become so broad that they are virtually useless for helping the public decide which offenders represent a true danger, she added. Burt said she's been contacted by several Wyoming men who are on the registry for the statutory rape of women who are now their spouses.

Wyoming would lose $85,000 in grant money if it fails to comply with the federal guidelines, according to Senate Judiciary Chairman Drew Perkins, R-Casper. That money is used to pay for drug enforcement programs.

The bill, however, is expected to cost the state $144,000.

Several other states have chosen not to comply with the guidelines because the cost of implementing them is greater than the reduction in grant funding.


GA - Subcommittee approves bill to restrict limits on photographing children

Original Article

02/15/2011

By Walter C. Jones

ATLANTA -- A subcommittee gave its approval Tuesday to a bill that would allow people to take photographs of children without a parent’s permission as long as they’re not on the state’s sex-offender registry.

The bill is designed to correct an oversight in last year’s sweeping sex-offender law that made it a crime for anyone other than the parents to photograph a child, even a grandparent or someone who captured the image of a child in the background.

However, the Georgia Parent Teacher Association testified against the bill and vows to try continue trying to stop it.

The subcommittee of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee voted unanimously to pass to the full committee House Bill 162 (PDF) sponsored by Rep. Ann Purcell, R-Rincon.

My 15-year-old grandchild could not have taken a picture of her friend,” Purcell said.

The law passed last year, sponsored by House Speaker David Ralston and then-House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, made it a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature for anyone taking a child’s photo without permission.

Purcell said she was contacted by a prosecutor and others from her coastal district asking that the law be changed because they feared it was so broadly worded that it would be ruled unconstitutional in a court challenge. That challenge might let an actual predatory of children off the hook.

It was an oversight,” she said.
- Oversight and not thinking is not the same.

Ralston, an attorney, recognized the need for the change and approved her bill, she said.

The PTA, though, likes the law as it is.

We want to ensure that in the bill it protects parental rights and the protection of the children,” said Otha Thornton, the PTA’s legislative chairman. “We want to take the protection a little bit further.”

He said there have been instances in metro Atlanta of people selling photos they took of children without permission and others who doctored children’s images and posted them publicly. He intends to ask the full committee to amend the bill when it comes for consideration