What does “regularly” mean?

Sex offender probation again. It doesn’t stop bothering me and it shouldn’t stop bothering you either.

One of the standard conditions of sex offender probation is the requirement that the probationer not go within 1-2,000 feet of a park, school, playground, library, etc (the so-called “residency restrictions“).

Connecticut does not have statewide residency restrictions and only three towns have enacted ordinances with penalties consisting of only fines.

Instead, in CT, you will see a standard condition of probation for sex offenders that is essentially a residency and work restriction. However, it is not worded quite as strictly as the residency restrictions and thus, in my opinion, is rather vague.

The standard condition reads something like this: “Probationer shall not go to any park, playground, school, [etc..] or any other place that is regularly frequented by minors under the age of sixteen.”

It’s that last bit that is especially problematic, because, in essence, any place could be a place frequented by minors under the age of sixteen. Take the movie theater, for instance.

The problem arises with actually proving a violation of the condition and whether a movie theater is a place that is regularly frequented by minors under the age of sixteen.

It seems to me that “frequently” the State proceeds to VOP hearings with the assumption that a movie theater is a place regularly frequented by minors and this assumption is rarely, if ever, effectively challenged by the defendant.

Several questions immediately spring to mind: What is regularly and whose regularly is it? Does it mean that the majority of patrons at a particular location are teens? Or do a particular set of teens (say the teens in that particular town) regularly go there? And what is “regularly”? 4 days a week? 51% of the patrons?

In addition, how does one really know that the teens who “frequent” that place are under the age of sixteen? No movie theater I know of checks ID and keeps a record of the age of each patron. No movie theater compiles these statistics. So how does one really know?

As anyone who has been outside in the last 15 years can attest (at least anecdotally), a 15 year old girl doesn’t look 15 anymore and there may be scientific evidence to back this up. There are even courses being taught about this general idea. So a girl that one may assume is 19 is actually 15. Indeed, some of our clients wouldn’t be in the messes they’re in if there was a sure-fire way of telling a girl’s age just by looking at her.

Keeping on with the movie theater example, does it matter if a majority of the patrons are adults, but a majority of those present are minors? Movie theaters are well known to be hang-outs for teens, but do they count?

Further, what’s the timeframe? Is it historical or within the last year or month or week or simply on the day that the defendant decided to go watch a movie?

These conditions are so vague, that I think a successful argument can be made that they do not provide adequate notice to a probationer that a non-enumerated place such as a movie theater is off-limits.

Shouldn’t the burden be on the State to actually prove that the movie theater is indeed a place which minors under the age of sixteen regularly frequent? And I mean prove by some sort of scientific evidence, not the eyeballing of an employee, not matter how long the employee has worked there.

In my opinion, such prosecutions must be zealously challenged and defended. Has anyone tried anything like this? Has anyone had any success? See any problems with my theories? How do you defend against these VOP hearings?

7 thoughts on “What does “regularly” mean?

  1. Ilah

    Do there exist places that children do not regularly frequent? They’re always running around grocery stores, laundrymats, emergency rooms, museums, Social Security offices, the DMV… And the casual observer will see more unsupervised, younger children at those locations than at any school. So if a probationer must assume a movie theatre is off-limits, why shouldn’t he also assume buying food, renewing his driver’s license, and getting treatment for his broken leg is also off-limits?

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  2. Red Flashlight

    These laws are based on faulty strategy. It’s not the “being around” young people that’s the problem. Rather, it’s the failure to supervise both the perpetrators and the children that’s the problem. But I understand – our economy can’t afford to spend money on supervision.

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  3. A Voice of Sanity

    Apropos of how ‘old is she’, in “8 Simple Rules… for Dating My Teenage Daughter” Amy Davidson, who played the younger sister, is actually six years older than Kaley Cuoco, who plays the oldest of the siblings. And in “Hope & Faith” with Faith Ford, Megan Fox played “Sydney Shanowski” replacing Nicole Paggi in that role. Paggi (born 1977) looked much younger than Fox (born 1986) and both played a girl much younger than themselves.

    I’d hate to have to guess.

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  4. SPO

    This just another example of a poorly drafted statute. Just about everywhere is regularly frequented by minors.

    In any event, the real problem with these laws is that they are a huge waste of resources. What I am concerned with are violent predators and pedophiles. We need to have a laser-like focus on these people because these are the ones most likely to cause serious problems once they have their freedom. Ticky-tack nonsense for a lot of low-level offenders does no one any good. And they are often unnecessarily harsh and humiliating.

    I am a very strong believer in firm dealings with the bad guys. I am also a very strong believer that people whose crimes are not serious should not have to suffer for them forever. Besides common decency, we live in a world of scarcity–resources wasted on low-level threats allow much greater threats to come to fruition.

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  5. A Voice of Sanity

    But the great advantage of these laws, and many like them, is that they produce the appearance of progress while not requiring much effort. They are the equivalent of a speed trap – easy to accidentally break and providing a list of ‘accomplishments’ for the police and, much more importantly, the politicians. The fact that the cost may bankrupt the local government is irrelevant – see “The Simpsons” and the anti-bear legislation episode (“Much Apu about Nothing”).

    Homer: Mr. Mayor, I hate to break it to you, but this town is infested by bears.
    Moe: Yeah, and these ones are smarter than the average bear. They swiped my pic-a-nic basket.
    Helen: [frantic] Think of the children!
    Quimby: All right, I promise to take swift and decisive action against these hibernating hucksters.

    “Think of the children.” The phrase is one of those debate stoppers. It’s akin to Godwin’s law – invoke the Nazis and short circuit a discussion.

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  6. Daniel

    Do we know that this statute is actually being enforced?

    It seems to me on the surface to be very pro sex-offender. I can’t imagine many DA’s tackling cases under this statute precisely because of the resources you would need to devote to it. Why bother unless there are people in the community complaining?

    I’d rather have this vagueness than the 1000 feet rule any day. Here I have wiggle room.

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  7. Rob

    I agree with these problems that these sort of conditions place on folks. What if the person is at an R-Rated movie? Presumably no on in the theater is under 17, so he’d be OK, as long as he dashed through the lobby…or didn’t stop for concessions…right?

    It’s ridiculous.

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