Category Archives: Adam Walsh Act

Not my town-itis

Connecticut, for some reason I have not yet uncovered, has thus far been immune to the sex offender hysteria that has gripped our nation for well over a decade now. Sure, we have mandatory minimums and calls to classify sex offenders on the same level as murderers, but the legislature, in an exemplary show of good sense, has resisted the urge to enact residency restrictions and has now twice rebuffed the implementation of the horrid Adam Walsh Act.

But, as I wrote back in December, the State hasn’t taken any positive steps either. There’s still nowhere for sex offenders who need treatment to get it. And if the residents of Montville, CT have their way, there won’t be anywhere for a while.

Montville, already home to two correctional facilities, was identified by the State as the prime location for a sex offender residential treatment facility, with an allocation of 24 beds. Frankly, 24 beds is nothing. Me and the 5 other attorneys in my office could come up with a list of 24 people before you finish reading this sentence, never mind the 100 other attorneys in the public defender system and their clients from just this year alone. But it’s a start and we have to start somewhere.

Yet, just like there are peas in a pod and two of a kind and how Garfunkel needed Simon, “sex offender treatment facility” seems incomplete without “not in my town”. And that’s exactly what the residents of Montville are arguing. Today, the town committee voted to seek an injunction to block the building of said treatment facility.

The state Department of Correction plans to create a 24-bed facility at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center for sex offenders about to be released from prison and those who have already been released. Creation of a residential sex offender program was part of a 2008 criminal justice reform law passed after the 2007 Cheshire home invasion.

Oh wait, this facility was to be created at the two jails that already exist in your little town? Perhaps they don’t realize these are the very jails that these sex offenders come from. It’s like moving them from one wing of the jail to another. But then again, it’s called hysteria for a reason…

In all the objections to constructing treatment facilities or the arguments in support of residency restrictions, I haven’t heard a single legitimate reason for excluding these from a particular locality or any justification that acknowledges the realities of banishing an entire group of people. Folks, “not in my town” isn’t a reason, it’s a position. You should explain, logically, why.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the town committee also voted to set a public hearing to consider an ordinance that would create a “sex offender free zone”. Montville isn’t the only town considering such an ordinance in CT. Greenwich, that bastion of purity and wholesome values and more BMWs than all the dealerships in the state combined, is also considering such an ordinance to ban its five (count ’em – 5) sex offenders from places that are “frequented” by children.

Yet it is town officials in Greenwich who have been debating since February whether to approve an ordinance that would prohibit sex offenders from being near schools, parks, playgrounds and other places children congregate. The ordinance would not limit where sex offenders can live, as similar laws in other states do, but it would impose a $100 fine on a registered offender caught in the wrong place for a second time.

After unanimous approval by the Board of Selectmen, the measure moved on to the Representative Town Meeting, the city’s 230-member legislative body, where it failed twice, most recently on Sept. 21.

The quote speaks for itself. What needs addressing, however, is the mindless repetition of what should properly be considered pure fabrication by the Republican members of the state legislature:

“Look, there is obviously an extremely delicate balance between protecting the public and the constitutional rights and freedoms of individuals, whether they are convicted sexual predators or not,” [State Senator McKinney] said. “The difficulty comes with the fact that this type of crime has an extraordinarily high recidivism rate, which justifies us in government taking greater steps toward protecting the public than we would with other crimes.”

As is noted in the article linked to above, and as I’ve cried myself hoarse on this blog, that’s just not true. McKinney knows that too, because he’s been on the Judiciary Committee when these residency restrictions have been proposed and he’s been given the studies that show it’s not true. But of course, acknowledging the truth doesn’t further the fearmongering agenda and so here we are. Again.

Coincidentally, and that’s how these things usually go, today’s episode of the local NPR program “Where We Live” was devoted to sex offenders in Connecticut and these “loitering ordinances”.

Here’s my question, that I wish these proponents of the Scarlet Laws would answer: do you believe that we can completely eradicate sex crimes against children? If your answer is yes, then you’re either a liar or you don’t understand anything about how crimes are committed and why. If you answer no, then I have a follow up question: What is the most effective use of resources? Police loitering around parks and schools and enforcing these possibly unconstitutional ordinances or creating facilities for offenders to reintegrate into society, in a productive manner, so as to prevent future occurrences?

The answer is clear. The only question that remains is whether you want to be honest with yourselves or lie to everyone in order to win a vote.

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:

Is a battle on sex offender registration brewing?

Silly sex offender registration laws have long been a bone that I’ve been itching to pick. If you asked me to list the ten worst decisions by SCOTUS in the last decade, Smith v. Doe and Dept’ of Public Safety v. Doe would make the top 5 of that list.

But I’ve always had the nagging feeling that both those decisions didn’t preclude future challenges to sex offender registration laws and their retroactive applications as violations of the Ex Post Facto clause. Now, we may just find out, because Maine’s Supreme Court has held that its sex offender registration law (SORNA) does violate the EPF.

The Maine decision is State v. Letalien, in which the defendant challenged the change in registration requirements from 15 years to lifetime and from change in address notifications to proactive 90 day reporting requirements. Interestingly, the ME court finds that the Federal and Maine Constitutions provide the same EPF protections and so the EPF violation is of the Federal Constitution.

Just like SCOTUS in Smith, the Letalien court concludes that SORNA is civil in nature and then engages in a discussion of the seven Mendoza-Martinez factors to determine if a statute that is intended to be civil will be found to be an ex post facto law. It will be so only if the “party challenging the statute provides ‘the clearest proof’ that ‘the statutory scheme [is] so punitive either in purpose or effect as to negate [the State’s] intention’ to deem it ‘civil.'” Kansas v. Hendricks. The factors are:

AWAinCT: We dun’t want yer kind ’round ‘ere

One of the more disturbing provisions being considered by the Lege in adopting the Adam Walsh Act here in Connecticut (and this provisions mirrors one in the actual AWA, I’m told) requires…well read it for yourself:

(d) Any person who is a registered sexual offender under the laws of any other state who enters this state and fails to notify the Commissioner of Public Safety in writing not less than forty-eight hours prior to entering the state of the information required under this section or falsely reports such information shall be guilty of a class D felony.

Oh yes. There is nothing missing from that sentence. If you were looking (and correctly so) for a qualifying clause in that language that required an individual to establish a residence here before being subject to “registration” you didn’t find it because it’s not there. It’s in the proposed subsection (c).

Subsection (d), that I just quoted above, mandates that anyone entering the State, for whatever reason, notify Public Safety 48 hours in advance. This is so silly it’s scary. There are no exceptions for emergencies or unplanned trips or anything. At all.

So if you’re required to register in CA, and are driving through from Yankee Stadium to Fenway Park to see the Yankees sweep the Red Sox and you take I-95 or the Merritt or I-91 or I-84 (all of which pass through Connecticut), you have to call public safety.

If you’re travelling only in NY and the highway you’re on has been shut down due to a nuclear spill and mutants are running wild and you have to divert through CT briefly to avoid becoming a mutant yourself, you have just committed a felony.

In fact, an argument can be made that if you’re flying from NY to CA and the plane makes an emergency landing at Bradley international airport in Windsor Locks, you have just committed a felony.

The rationale, as I understand it, is that the previous “undue delay” requirement wasn’t enough

The Adam Walsh Act is coming to Connecticut

I only just realized that there’s a bill currently in the legislature implementing the Adam Walsh Act. Folks, this is some nasty, scary shit. For the first time in my life, I think I might be moved enough to call my legislator to oppose this. I will have plenty of posts on the AWA in the coming days, but for now, here’s the bill.