The Adam Walsh fearmongering and bleeding money Act

I have been in somewhat of a blog slumber. I haven’t posted in a while (and frankly, since Scott returned from his vacation, there’s no more opportunity for me to sneak in and steal his readers). But what better way to get the blood pumping and the vituperative juices returning than the news that our state Republicans and lame-duck Governor are once again introducing the Adam Walsh “burn them at the stake” Act.

I wouldn’t recommend clicking on that link. The Act is long and is sure to get your delicates in a delicate twist (unless you’re a terrorist, in which case, you win).

I’ve already written about one nonsensical aspect of this “Act” before: on the requirement that travelers through the State notify public safety of their impending passage.

There are several more that merit attention and derision, so I’ll list them first and then take them on one by one:

  1. The Act creates a new “tiered” system of SORN (sex offender registration and notification), dividing defendants not on their chances of re-offending, or on the particular circumstances of their offenses, but simply on the offense of conviction itself: Tier A: 15 years, Tier B: 25 years, Tier C: life. Currently, in CT, there are only two “tiers”: 10 years and life. Risk assessment is simply not a factor in either equation and that’s a huge mistake.
  2. The current risk of injury statute, the go-to statute for dubious allegations involving minors, would be revamped and broken up into three different statutes, each more onerous than the previous. Sexual contact with a minor under thirteen would become a Class A felony, thus lumping it together with the burglaries home invasions and murders and sexual contact with someone between thirteen and sixteen would become a Class B felony.
  3. The rules for exemption from registration are putrid and hollow.
  4. The registration requirements place a burden that is far greater than was approved by SCOTUS in Alaska and CT Dept. of Pub Safety (as distinguished by Maine’s Supreme Court): once a year for Tier 1, every 6 months for Tier 2 and every 3 months for Tier 3, all in person.
  5. The requirements for “transients” are incredibly laughable and courts are taking notice of the fact that it is problematic to require homeless people to register and punish them for essentially not having a home.
  6. The retroactive application of the registration requirements, which are already being successfully challenged.
  7. The cost. Oh, the cost. It shall be staggering. It shall be wasteful. It shall be just what States need in this time of financial surplus.

The seventh point is the focus of this post, which is one more step toward a Big Brother/nanny state:

Sec. 8. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2010) Any person who has reason to believe that a registrant is in violation of registration requirements and who, with intent to assist the registrant in eluding a law enforcement officer in the investigation or enforcement of such violation, (1) withholds information from, or does not notify, the law enforcement officer about the registrant’s noncompliance with such requirements and, if known, the whereabouts of the registrant, (2) harbors, or attempts to harbor, or assists another person in harboring or attempting to harbor, the registrant, (3) conceals or attempts to conceal, or assists another person in concealing or attempting to conceal, the registrant, (4) knowingly provides false information regarding the registrant, (5) obstructs or hinders the law enforcement officer in the performance of such officer’s official duties relative to the investigation or enforcement of such violation, or (6) falsely represents the registrant by signing address verification forms or other official documentation relative to the registration of sexual offenders, shall be guilty of a class D felony.

At first glance, the statute seems to be somewhat restricted in its application, proscribing active hindering or deception. But there is much potential for abuse here. For example, when is a “law enforcement officer in the investigation of such a violation”? Is it automatically assumed, that once a registration lapses on the 90th day or the 181st day, that an officer would begin to investigate the noncompliance?

And how is one to be held liable for not notifying, if one is unaware that an “active investigation” is underway? The word “notify” signifies an affirmative duty on the part of the individual with knowledge of non-compliance. So does this create a requirement and place a responsibility on all of us to notify law enforcement as soon as we become aware that someone we know is not in compliance? Are we being asked to spy and snitch on one another?

This statute ignores many of the realities surrounding sex offenders: an overwhelming percentage of offenders are known to their victims, are members of their family, etc. In a lot of cases, the people just want to move on, to try and reconcile, to forgive and forget. Especially after the defendant has served his sentence and been reunited with his family. Now this places the difficult choice in the hands of the family members or new loved ones: risk exposing the one you love to further incarceration or yourself to that same penalty.

Why can’t we keep policing to the police? And why is not snitching a crime only when it comes to sex offenders? Why not a bill that covers all crimes and failure to report information pertinent to a crime?

The AWA is a bloated piece of crap, which moves the state of our legislation in exactly the opposite direction of where it needs to go. It ignores the realities of recidivism, of risks and generally and spectacularly fails to recognize the individual circumstances that surround each offense and instead lumps people together into pseudo-homogenous categories where none apply.

But here, in the liberal Northeast’s southernmost state, it is de rigueur.

[For more, see this and Sex Crimes’ AWA page.]

[The silly bill is No. 33. In order to counter the vicious hate directed at No. 33, I give you something beautiful: K 333.]

2 thoughts on “The Adam Walsh fearmongering and bleeding money Act

  1. David

    Forgive a naive reader from the other side of the Atlantic, but aren’t there 5th Amendment problems with requiring people to notify law enforcement of non-compliant registrant? After all, surely that shows that you know that the registrant is non-compliant, and therefore might incriminate you for harbouring him, or for not reporting him at some earlier time.

  2. Pingback: Sex-y times at the state lege | a public defender

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