Sex offender registry
Sex offender registration is a system in various states designed to allow government authorities to keep track of the residence and activities of sex offenders, including those who have completed their criminal sentences. In some jurisdictions, such as the United States, registration is accompanied by notification requirements. The information in the registry is made available to the general public via a website or other means. In many jurisdictions registered sex offenders are subject to additional restrictions, including on housing. Those on parole or probation may be subject to restrictions that don't apply to other parolees or probationers. Sometimes these include (or have been proposed to include) restrictions on being in the presence of minors, living in proximity to a school or day care center, owning toys or other items of interest to minors, or using the Internet. Sex offender registries exist in nearly all English speaking countries, including the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Sex offender registration does not exist outside of the Anglosphere, however, except in France. The United States is the only country with a registry that is publicly accessible, although information on less serious offenders is withheld from the public in some states; all other countries in the Anglosphere have sex offender registries only accessible by law enforcement.
SORs in the United States
Various jurisdictions have different criteria for being placed on the registry. In the US, each state has its own registry database.The Supreme Court of the United States has upheld sex offender registration laws twice, in two respects. Challenges to state laws (in Hawaii, Missouri, and Michigan ) have succeeded, however.
In 1947, California became the first state in the United States to have a sex offender registration program. Community notification of the release of sex offenders from incarceration did not occur until almost 50 years later. In 1990, Washington began community notification of its most dangerous sex offenders, making it the first state to ever make any sex offender information publicly available. In 1994, a federal statute called the Jacob Wetterling Act required all states to pass legislation requiring sex offenders to register with state sex offender registries. Then again in 1996, based on a set of New Jersey laws called "Megan's Laws", the federal government required states to pass legislation mandating public notification of personal information for certain sex offenders. In Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe (2002) the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed this public disclosure.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act became law in 2007. This law implements new uniform requirements for sex offender registration across the states (however, these laws can differ in each state). Highlights of the law are a new national sex offender registry, standardized registration requirements for the states, and new and enhanced criminal offenses related to sex offenders. Since its enactment, the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) has come under intense grassroots scrutiny for its far-reaching scope and breadth. Even before any state adopted AWA, several sex offenders were prosecuted under its regulations. This has resulted in one life sentence for failure to register, due to the offender being homeless and unable to register a physical address.
Because of the act, all 50 states have now passed laws requiring sex offenders (especially child sex offenders) to register with police. Accordingly, the law requires offenders to report where they take up residence upon leaving prison or being convicted of any crime.
In 2006, California voters passed Proposition 83, which will enforce "lifetime monitoring of convicted sexual predators and the creation of predator free zones". This proposition was challenged the next day in federal court on grounds relating to ex post facto. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Sacramento, found that Proposition 83 did not apply retroactively. Patty Wetterling, the mother of Jacob Wetterling and a major proponent of the Jacob Wetterling Act, has openly criticized the evolution of sex offender registration and management laws in the United States since the Jacob Wetterling Act was passed, saying that the laws are often applied to too many offenses and that the severity of the laws often makes it difficult to rehabilitate offenders.
In New York, the minimum registration period was increased from 10 to 20 years about 2005. Offenders who had agreed to plea bargains involving only 10 years registration sued the state. This suit was unsuccessful; the court ruled that the increase was not an extension of punishment, merely a means of informing the public.
In New York, information on Level 1 offenders in the database is available to law enforcement agencies, but not the general public.
Limitations of Movement and Employment
SORs in the states typically require the registrant to notify their local or state law enforcement agencies whenever they change residency. In most cases, the registrant is not told of the full set of restrictions, rules, regulations or stipulations that might result in violation of the registry and charged with that violation.
Registries also have restrictions on how close registrants may live near places where children congregate. State lawmakers are constantly pushing for the expansion of limitations and movement restrictions, usually measured by feet from such an area.
Some lawmakers are pushing for what they call "Offender-Free Zoning"
Public Perception and Civil Rights Controversy
There is currently no other offense in the US that requires or even has such a database. Burglary, drug use, domestic violence, and manslaughter (to name a few), are offenses which are more commonly carried out repeatedly yet have no database to safeguard the public. The common justification for this is that these other offenses are "curable" whereas a sexual deviancy is not and thus it is needed for tracking.
Civil rights and liberal political organizations are constantly stalling what seems to be an inevitable trend of harsher and more stringent laws against offenders.
Minors on the Registry
Minors who commit sex offenses are increasingly being required to be placed on SORs. This current and controversial trend is making news nationwide, causing a few to rethink current policies regarding registration.
U.S. Supreme Court rulings
In two cases docketed for argument on 13 November 2003, the sex offender registries of two states, Alaska and Connecticut, would face legal challenge. This was the first instance that the Supreme Court had to examine the implementation of sex offender registries in throughout the U.S. The ruling would let the states know how far they could go in informing citizens of perpetrators of sex crimes. The constitutionality of the registries was challenged in two ways:
Ex post facto challenge
In Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003), the Supreme Court upheld Alaska's sex-offender registration statute. Reasoning that sex offender registration deals with civil laws, not punishment, the Court ruled 6–3 that it is not an unconstitutional ex post facto law. Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer dissented.
Due process challenge
In Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe, 538 U.S. 1 (2003), the Court ruled that Connecticut's sex-offender registration statute did not violate the procedural due process of those to whom it applied, although the Court "expresses no opinion as to whether the State's law violates substantive due process principles".
Update: Reynolds V. United States Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit No. 10–6549. Argued 3 October 2011 – Decided 23 January 2012 "The Act does not require pre-Act offenders to register before the Attorney General validly specifies that the Act’s registration provisions apply to them".
State Court rulings
In State v. Bani, 36 P.3d 1255 (Haw. 2001), the Hawaii State Supreme Court held that Hawaii's sex offender registration statute violated the due process clause of the Constitution of Hawaii, ruling that it deprived potential registrants "of a protected liberty interest without due process of law". The Court reasoned that the sex offender law authorized "public notification of (the potential registrant's) status as a convicted sex offender without notice, an opportunity to be heard, or any preliminary determination of whether and to what extent (he) actually represents a danger to society".
After losing the constitutional challenge in the US Supreme Court in 2002 one of the two Doe's in the case committed suicide. The other Doe began a new challenge in the state courts. Per the ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY website: On 25 July 2008, Doe number two prevailed and the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act’s registration violated the ex post facto clause of the state's constitution and ruled that the requirement does not apply to persons who committed their crimes before the act became effective on 10 August 1994.
Many successful challenges to sex offender registration laws in the United States have been in Missouri because of a unique provision in the Missouri Constitution (Article I, Section 13) prohibiting laws "retrospective in [their] operation".
In Doe v. Phillips, 194 S.W.3d 837 (Mo. banc 2006), the Supreme Court of Missouri held that the Missouri Constitution did not allow the state to place anyone on the registry who had been convicted or pleaded guilty to a registrable offense before the sex offender registration law went into effect on 1 January 1995. and remanded the case for further consideration in light of that holding. On remand, the Jackson County Circuit Court entered an injunction ordering that the applicable individuals be removed from the published sex offender list. Defendant Colonel James Keathley appealed that order to the Missouri Court of Appeals in Kansas City, which affirmed the injunction on 1 April 2008. Keathley filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Missouri.
In response to these rulings, in 2007, several Missouri state Senators proposed an amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would exempt sex offender registration laws from bar on retrospective civil laws. The proposed amendment passed the State Senate unanimously but was not passed by the Missouri House of Representatives before the end of the 2007 legislative session. The same constitutional amendment was proposed in and passed by the Missouri Senate again in 2008, but also was not passed by the House of Representatives by the end of that year's legislative session. As a result, the decisions of the Missouri courts prohibiting the retrospective application of sex offender laws remained intact.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled on Keathley's appeal (Doe v. Phillips now styled Doe v. Keathley) on 16 June 2009. The Court held that the Missouri Constitution's provision prohibiting laws retrospective in operation no longer exempts individuals from registration if they are subject to the independent Federal obligation created under the Sexual Offenders Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. § 16913. As a result, many offenders who were previously exempt under the Court's 2006 holding in Doe v. Phillips were once again required to register.
On 12 January 2010, Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan ruled that individuals who plead guilty to a sex offense are not required to register under Federal Law and thus are not required to register in Missouri if the date of their plea was prior to the passage of the Missouri registration law.
Missouri also has a number of laws that restrict the activities of persons required to register as sex offenders, several of which have also been challenged as being retrospective in their operation. On 19 February 2008, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that a law prohibiting registered sex offenders from residing within one thousand feet of a school was retrospective in operation as applied to registered sex offenders who had resided at a location within such a distance prior to the enactment of the law. Another exception to the school-residence proximity requirement was handed down by the Court on 12 January 2010 in F.R. v. St. Charles County Sheriff's Department. In this case, F.R. was convicted prior to the enactment of the law and the Court held that, as such, he was not required to abide by the restriction. Consolidated with F.R. was State of Missouri v. Raynor, in which the Court found that Charles A. Raynor was not required to comply with R.S.Mo. § 589.426, a law restricting the activities of registered sex offenders on Halloween. It should be noted that, in both F.R. and Raynor, the ruling applies only to the named party.
In the ruling of Heggs v. State, 718 So.2d 263(1998), and in 2000, The Supreme Court denied Florida's request for rehearing on the constitutionality of the 1995 sentencing guidelines due to the unconstitutionality being a violation of the "Single Subject Rule," leaving the decision by the 2nd DCA to set precedence. It has opened a Pandora's box for Florida Legislature as many laws that were enacted violating Article III, section 6, Single subject rule are open to constitutional arguments. In the decision of Heggs, many laws which were enacted now face a constitutional argument as it is clear there is an unconstitutional, illegal and unlawful enactment of §943.0435, which was enacted in Florida Chapter Law 97-299: Senate Bill 958. The Bill was related to the release of Public Records Information.
Florida legislature outlined Sex Offender Registration in the creation of §943.0435, further in the Bill the single subject rule was violated when 1998 §921.0017 Credit Upon Resentence of an Offender Serving a Split Sentence, which has nothing in regards to the release of public records information as Legislature attempted to mask a cross reference correction. In the correction there was statutory language added in effort to bring it in compliance with the Florida Constitution and 3 subsections appeared in §921.0017, that were in regards to appropriation of funds.
In the 1998 supplement where the new amendments and created laws would have been published. §921.0017 as well as §921.243 were no where to be found. In great research the cross reference error in §921.0017 was the focus, and the added statutory language appears in an illegally and unlawfully enacted statute §921.243 that cites 97 – 299; Senate Bill 958; Florida chapter law 97-299 never creates §921.243, nor ever cites it for amendment and the 3 subsections dealing with appropriation of funds are being searched for within the 1998 supplement, as they are of great interest due to Albrights summary which he made it clear that Senate Bill 958 would not need any new funding or cause for any new taxes. The confusing things is there was no scheduled House meeting according to the Florida House of Representatives Website, yet the Analysis summary is dated 17 March 1997 with 7 yeas and 0 nays from Committee on Crime and Punishment & Representatives Albright, Ball & others. Florida could stand to be the only State unable to justify any constitutional reasoning as this has yet to be decided nor the reasoning for the appropriations found.
Other registries inspired by the SORs
Several states, responding to complaints about singling out sex offenders when there are other types of criminals, have set up registries for other crimes. Kansas, Montana, and Oklahoma have violent crime registries. Utah has a white-collar crime registry. Tennessee has a drug crimes registry, and Minnesota and Illinois have meth registries. Ohio has a drunken driver registry. Virginia has a dangerous dogs registry. Guam has a family violence registry.
- Sex offender registration (wikipedia)
- Court voids state sex offender registry for imposing unconstitutionally retroactive punishment
- California Megan's Law – California Department of Justice – Office of the Attorney General
- Supreme Court Cases of Interest 2002–2003: Sex Offender Registries (ABA Division for Public Education). www.abanet.org. Retrieved on 2008-03-16.
- Connecticut Department of Public Safety, et al., Petitioners v. John Doe, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated. caselaw.lp.findlaw.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-15.
- Dewan, Shaila. "Homelessness Could Mean Life in Prison for Offender", The New York Times, 3 August 2007. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
- California 2006 Election results, Proposition 83
- California 2006 Election Proposition 83 summary Sex Offenders. Sexually violent predators. Punishment, residence restrictions and monitoring. Initiative Statute.
- Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe (01-1231) 538 U.S. 1(2003).
- State v. Bani, 36 P.3d 1255 (Haw. 2001)
- Missouri Constitution
- Doe v. Phillips, 194 S.W.3d 837 (Mo. banc 2006)
- Doe v. Keathley, Case No. WD68066 (Mo. App. slip op. Apr. 1, 2008)
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Legislators focus on sex offenders", April 11, 2007.
- "Bill backup clogs waning session", The Kansas City Star, 9 April 2007
- Missouri General Assembly Actions on SJR 34
- Doe et. al. v. Keathley et. al., No. SC89727
- "Judge says some Missouri sex offenders don't have to register their locations", January 10,2010
- R.L. v. Missouri Department of Corrections, Case No. SC88644 (Mo. banc slip op. Feb. 19, 2008)
- F.R. v. St. Charles County Sheriff's Department, No. SC89834
- State of Missouri v. Charles A. Raynor, No. SC90164
- Erica Goode, "States Seeking New Registries for Criminals", New York Times, May 20, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/21/us/21registry.html, consulted 4/15/2015.
- SOR problems
- Reform Sex Offender Laws
- California Reform Sex Offender Laws Organization
- Criminalisation of youth
- Unspeakable (Short film)
- Sex Offender Statistics
- Sex Offender Murders + (Current)
- Chicago police fail to register sex offenders 601 times in just three months
- Shim, Jane (13 August 2014). Listed for Life. Slate.
- Includes map of minimum registration duration for sex offenders
- BARRED FOREVER: SENIORS, HOUSING, AND SEX OFFENSE REGISTRATION
- innocent victims The innocent victims project was created in 2011 as a way to educate lawmakers and the public about the collateral damage done to the families of registered sex offenders all over the US by the public nature of the sex offender registry.