Category Archives: residency restrictions

Proof that sex offenders make people act crazy (with update)

tugofwar

Title Bout: Ohio v. USA

Sex offender hysteria is well documented. Apparently, the Federal Government is also not immune from its mind altering effects. Consider the case of John Doe in Ohio. John Doe, convicted in 1993 of sexual battery in state court, is currently on Federal probation for unrelated drug offenses.

A zealous probation officer must’ve looked at Doe’s criminal record and noticed the sex offense conviction. So, the probation officer required Doe to register as a sex offender in Ohio. Only one problem: Ohio state law exempts Doe from registering.

And thus, the tug-of-war between the Federal Government and the State of Ohio begins. Whose requirements prevail? Or will it all be disregarded because the object of this “war” is to get a heinous, evil, dangerous, disgusting, despicable sex offender to register his whereabouts? Some counties in Ohio have had the testicular fortitude to tell the Feds to stick it, but unfortunately not the county in which Doe resides.

Still waiting for registry reform

13 months ago, almost to the very date, State Rep. and co-chair of the Judiciary Committee Mike Lawlor gave an interview in which he touted the need for sensible reforms to the sex offender registry. I was buoyed by it and a little hopeful. After all, who can not see the benefits of a tiered sex offender registry? Still, back then, I noted some suspicion, given the political climate, that such changes would ever come to fruition.

So, it was with a sense of deja vu that I read this editorial in the Courant last week from Mike Lawlor, entitled “Sex Offender Registry Riddled With Flaws”.

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?

Pollitt neighbors want tax break

Remember David Pollitt? (Previous posts here, here, here and here.) After trying to block his move into their neighborhood, and failing, residents are now trying to get their money back. Literally. They’ve asked the town to reduce the property tax assessment of their homes by as much as 17%.

Carolyn Nadeau, president of the Connecticut Association of Assessing Officers, said the request may be the first of its kind in the state.

“I’ve never had an instance like this,” she said. “Any number of times there are distractions that people feel negatively impact their property values, such as unsightly blight, but we haven’t seen this.”

The company that revalued all properties in Southbury last fall rejected the residents’ plea for help. The new values took effect Oct. 1 and Pollitt didn’t move to the neighborhood until Oct. 12.

It’s tough. My initial reaction is to roll my eyes, but only because I was quite disgusted with the nonsense that went on the first time around. I can understand that their property values probably have taken a bit of a hit, and they’re trying to do something, anything about it. But they’re not the only ones. Residents throughout the state have to deal with this as sex offenders (and other offenders) move into their neighborhoods. What about your friendly neighborhood DUI repeat offender? I’d be worried about that kind of offender weaving around my street, drunk, knocking pedestrians off.

What will happen when other registries go online? Will it just suppress the housing market as a whole? While prices go down across the board? Or will people remember that ex-convicts have always lived amongst us and move on? What else can be done?

The forever persecuted

A few days ago, I noticed a story in the Boston Globe about residents in a New Hampshire town who rejoiced after successfully getting a sex offender to leave their community. It was of particular interest to me because that sex offender was from Connecticut and the story said he would be returning here.

So it came as no surprise when I saw this report today. It says that he is on the move – perhaps with a one-way ticket to prison.

This is really stupid and I think the “biggest waste of law enforcement funds this week” nominee. The offender, Douglas Simmons, was in compliance with registration requirements while he lived in CT. Then he decided to move to NH. So what does he do? He notifies the police in New Hampshire when he gets there. Not good enough, say the police. He has to inform police in Connecticut as well, that he is moving out of state.

This seems pointless to me. Either he is living in the state and in compliance or not living in the state and therefore shouldn’t have to comply. Some law enforcement agency knew of his whereabouts at the mandated interval. What difference does it make that it was New Hampshire law enforcement?  The NH police contacted CT to say “hey, one of your guys moved here”. Apparently, they’re not to be trusted.

The statute has has violated is C.G.S 54-252, which provides in relevant part:

If any person who is subject to registration under this section changes such person’s address, such person shall, without undue delay, notify the Commissioner of Public Safety in writing of the new address and, if the new address is in another state, such person shall also register with an appropriate agency in that state, provided that state has a registration requirement for such offenders.

I want to know what undue delay means and what the delay was in this case. Either way, the prosecutor handling this case should really look at this and see whether this needs to be prosecuted. I don’t think it does.

Now, his current whereabouts are unknown, because, you know, he was kicked out of his last town. Do you blame him? This is a guy who committed a pretty ugly offense. He served 22 years in jail for it (day for day, it seems). Then he gets out and has to register for life. Which he does dutifully. Then he decides to move. So thinking logically, he notifies the town he moves into. They freak out and kick him out. He leaves and moves back to his home state. Now he’s wanted by the police and will have to go back to jail for some bs violation. I’d be tempted to give the State the finger at that point. Wouldn’t you?

Sex offender homelessness: a growing problem

USA Today has two pieces covering the growing problem of sex offender homelessness due to strict residency restrictions and the real dangers posed by it.

Thousands of convicted sex offenders are reporting to police that they are homeless, raising concerns that their lack of a permanent address could make them difficult to track, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

Sex offenders, who are required to register with police and often barred by law from living near places where children gather, list addresses such as a tent, “near a bike path,” “behind a cemetery” or “woods behind Wal-Mart.”

Two-thirds of the states allow convicted sex offenders, including violent predators, to register as homeless or list a shelter or inexact location as long as they stay in touch with police.

At least a dozen states list hundreds of sex offenders without specific addresses. California registered 2,716 as “transient.” Washington state listed 564 as homeless, but the number is probably much higher, says Carolyn Sanchez of the Washington State Patrol.

Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maine and other states say the number of homeless sex offenders is rising. Landlords often won’t rent to them, and laws in dozens of states and hundreds of cities bar them from living near areas where kids play.

The primary cause of this homelessness is their inability to secure any sort of housing in cities and towns due to excessively strict residency restrictions. This creates public safety problems on two fronts: It makes it difficult for law enforcement to keep track of them and it increases the sense of isolation, frustration and loneliness felt by the homeless.

Residency restrictions in their current form have no visible impact on the reduction of crime and in fact, may well end up being counterproductive.

Sex Crimes also has this covered.

Sex offender homelessness is not an excuse

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 (click on image for full size)

In my post last night about Danbury’s desire to expel all sex offenders from its shelter, a helpful readers points to this NYT article about a homeless sex offender in Georgia who could be facing life in prison for failing to register.

The offender, Larry W. Moore Jr. of Augusta, was convicted in North Carolina in 1994 of indecent liberty with a child, a felony. This week he was convicted for the second time of violating a requirement that he register. Under the new law, a second violation carries an automatic life sentence.

“We have suggested that it is cruel and unusual punishment as it relates to the facts of this case,” said Sam B. Sibley Jr., the state public defender in Augusta, whose office represents Mr. Moore and is planning an appeal on his behalf.

This increased penalty is in conjunction with some tough residency restrictions: 1,000 feet of not only schools and day care centers but also churches, swimming pools and school bus stops.

There is only one shelter in Georgia that accepts male sex offenders. One. Sex offenders that cannot find housing have to resort to all sorts of living accommodations.

In Florida, the state authorized five offenders to live under a bridge in Miami after they were unable to find suitable housing that they could afford. In Iowa, a victims’ group found that offenders tried to comply with the registry law by offering addresses like “rest area mile marker 149” or “RV in old Kmart parking lot.”

I had a client once who was charged with failure to register. He was living under a bridge. I half-joked at the time that he should send in the registration form with “Under Charter Oak Bridge” as his address. Guess some people are actually doing it.

Then you get quotes like this:

Homelessness is not an acceptable excuse. “One of the requirements when you become a sex offender is you have to have an address,” said Sgt. Ray Hardin of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office in Augusta.

Sergeant Hardin said enforcement of the law required a dedicated investigator, a global positioning system and, each time an offender moves, hours of paperwork. At least 15 sex offenders have been arrested because of homelessness since the law took effect in July 2006, according to documents gathered through pretrial proceedings in a lawsuit brought by the Southern Center for Human Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Perhaps the police department can set up tents in their parking lots, where sex offenders can stay. This way, there’s zero cost of monitoring and these folks (some of them are human, too) have a roof over their heads.

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