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Archive for Thursday, July 18, 2013

Judge takes Kansas offender off ‘punitive’ registry

July 18, 2013

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— A Kansas judge has ordered law enforcement agencies to remove a man’s name from the state’s offender registry, saying an amended law ostracizes offenders and requires them to remain registered longer than necessary.

Tuesday’s decision by Shawnee County Judge Larry Hendricks addressed only the case of the man who sued to end his registering requirement, but it could extend to others in his situation if the state Supreme Court upholds it upon appeal. High courts in other states have struck down similar registration laws that have been found to be too excessive.

The Kansas law requires sex, drug and violent offenders to register with law enforcement. It applies retroactively and offenders must register for 15 years to life, depending on the severity of the crime. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s registry shows 94 convicted sex offenders living in Douglas County.

Chris Joseph, the plaintiff’s attorney, said that if the ruling stands, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation may have to relieve thousands of convicted offenders of the requirement to stay on the registry.

“It means he has a chance to live a normal life and, frankly, I think this is the right thing to do,” Joseph said. “He is not a danger, and he has served his sentence.”

Neither the state Attorney General’s Office nor the KBI responded to emails Tuesday seeking comment.

The plaintiff pleaded guilty in 2003 to having taken indecent liberties with a child/touching in Johnson County. At the time, he was required to remain on the registry for 10 years, until this year. But in 2011, the Legislature amended the law and among other changes, it extended the length of time that offenders have to remain registered to 25 years. The state told the plaintiff it applied retroactively and that he had to remain registered until 2028.

“It is punishment, it is punitive and to suddenly extend it to 25 years or life is not constitutional,” Joseph said.

Kansas offenders are also required to report in person four times per year where they live, work or attend school. They must register within three days of changing residences or jobs and must tell law enforcement when they plan to travel internationally. They must pay a $20 fee each time they report something, and they are identified as sex offenders on their driver’s licenses.

The law also requires offenders to provide on their registration form their address, phone numbers, vehicle information, professional licenses, palm prints, email addresses, online identities, memberships in online social networks and travel documents. Failure to comply with the requirements is a felony with a sentence of 32 to 36 months in prison.

Hendricks noted that when citizens use the Johnson County website to post registry information on social media websites, social media users can then comment about the registry posting — in effect using the website to create a virtual forum for public shaming. He likened the web notification provisions and driver’s license notations to “traditional colonial punishments.”

The judge said the state’s registration requirement was excessive and exceeded the time necessary to protect public safety. He cited studies that found the risk of a sex offender committing another sex crime drops significantly as he or she ages.

Hendricks noted that the court was aware of the emotion elicited by the offender registry law.

“However, people controlled by this act also have relatives that are affected by the act. The increased requirements that are in effect, increased punishment, do not and cannot survive the revealing light of our Constitution,” he wrote in the decision. “We must protect the individual rights of all people to insure the protection of our own individual rights, no matter what our emotions might tell us.”

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 5 months ago

On the basis of one single example, I know the sex offender registry can sometimes be grossly unfair. I had the acquaintance and confidence of a man who is now on the sex offender registry for no good reason. (And yes, I do know his name.) He has mental problems, and he is incredibly shy, to the point that when his mother came to visit him at his apartment he was unable to use the restroom at all for anything unless she waited outside. So, to think that he had suddenly overcome his shyness to the point of actually doing anything illegal with anyone is ridiculous.

This is the story as presented to me: I do not know what instigated it all, but it came down to he admitted to the police and his social worker that he had "thought about" sex crimes on occasion in the privacy of his own home, and that was the total extent of his sex crimes, or sex life for that matter. He was consulted by his social worker, who advised him to plead guilty to something or other, and be put on the sex offender registry. I think, but do not know, that he was told he could stay out of jail if he did that. He didn't really realize what that would mean, so he complied with his social worker's wishes and pleaded guilty, although the only thing he had actually done was to think bad thoughts in the privacy of his own home.

But nothing illegal actually happened. My opinion is that his social worker simply didn't want to bother with him anymore, and that's why he was advised to plead guilty to thinking bad thoughts in private while alone.

When you think about it, the implications of that are terrifying. What if the thought of robbing a bank crosses your mind? Will you have to do time for that thought crime?

And, some people are on the sex offender registry for public urination. Exactly what constitutes public urination is not really clear cut, and so some people are on it simply because there wasn't a men's room available when needed, and the arresting officer or other witnesses didn't think the spot chosen was private enough.

But I do think the majority of people on the sex offender registry should be on it, I'm not arguing against that at all. It's just that a few people are sometimes railroaded into it for the convenience of others, and those are likely to be people with mental problems. And my opinion is that most of the people on the registry that shouldn't be on it did not have the advice of a lawyer.

That social worker was a mighty poor lawyer, in my opinion. I'm not sure what it would take to get him taken off the sex offender registry, it would take a lawyer for sure, and he is of very limited means.

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 5 months ago

There are those who present themselves as shy who do horrible things. I will never forget reading about the murderer who could not look people in the eye and blushed easily. Sorry, I don't remember the details. It was in a book that was interviews with police officers, their lives in their own words.

True enough there was things that people react to with emotions and perhaps that is a good thing in some instances. It enables us to form judgements, that is to be able to discern what is really going on and how we think. I think that drug offenders should not be on such a list at all, it should be limited to sex and violent offenders.

The grievous harm done to a child, physically, mentally and spiritually cannot be underestimated. An elderly woman could be totally devastated. Women, boys and men who have been though this trauma suffer the burden of what they have been taught about such things and what they perceive others thinking about them if they knew.

costello 1 year, 5 months ago

Personally I think we've gone over the top with the registered offender thing. People who are no more of a continuing threat to the community than the average person are forced to register, making it more difficult for them to find homes and jobs. IMO it's bad public policy to make it so very difficult for certain classes of people to re-enter normal society. They may become discouraged and give up on improving themselves. Or they may simply find it's nearly impossible.

I remember talking to a woman who told me that as a human resources employee at a factory, she prevented a registered child molester from getting a job there. I think I'd rather have the child molester gainfully employed at a factory for 40 hours per week than wandering the streets. We may not like such people personally. We certainly don't want them around children. But if they're in the community anyway, we should at least help them reintegrate in appropriate ways.

The judge is correct. These lengthy registration periods are sometimes merely punitive. When they have little to do with public safety, they harm both the offender and the community..

Topple 1 year, 5 months ago

How does informing the public harm the community?

That's like saying revealing all the damage Jerry Sandusky did damaged the community. False. The offender damaged the community through their actions, not the revelation of their acts.

costello 1 year, 5 months ago

It harms the community when people who are no ongoing danger have a difficult time resuming a normal life. People who can't find a job and support themselves are a burden. And they aren't contributing by paying income taxes.

jafs 1 year, 5 months ago

The whole "ex post facto" law thing is interesting.

I don't really understand why certain things are exempt from that, like IRS penalties. Last time I looked, if you paid your taxes correctly at the time, and the laws change, the IRS can send you a bill for extra taxes based on the new law and penalties and interest as well.

Seems to me that violates the spirit of "no ex post facto" laws.

Topple 1 year, 5 months ago

SCOTUS already ruled that retroactive sex offender registry extension is not unconstitutional, as it's not punishment.

edit wasn't intended as a reply to you, JAFS, just a regular post.

jafs 1 year, 5 months ago

Hi.

But, there's nothing in the constitution about punishment.

It simply says that no ex post facto laws may be passed.

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