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The State of California has two different types of sex offender registrations. Mandatory sex offender registration is a consequence upon conviction for sex crimes, while discretionary sex offender registration relies on the given court orders (Wallin & Klarich Law Corporation, n.d.). The law requires persons, who commit certain sex offenses, to register as sex offenders with a local law enforcement agency. According to the California Penal Code Section 290, mandatory registration is a consequence of a felony or misdemeanor conviction for various crimes. These include murder, kidnapping and assault with intention to commit rape, sodomy, forceful sexual penetration, lewd and oral copulation with a child; sexual battery; minor pimping; incest; child pornography; child molestation and aiding in the commission of these crimes (California's Government, n.d.). On the contrary, discretionary registration is required in cases when an offender convicted of a non-sex offense is found to have committed the crime due to sexual compulsion or a need for sexual gratification.
The Sex Offender Registration Act outlines the requirements, which a convicted sex offender is obliged to fulfill. The registration process depends on whether the offender is a transient, student or employee in any of California’s higher learning institutions, sexually violent predator or has moved from another state. The convicted person is required to register such details within five working days of his/her sentence as release from custody, discharge from a mental hospital or moving from one to another city/state. Regardless of the severity of the offense and the conviction date, offenders have to register and verify their addresses for life as long as they reside, work or study in California (California Department of Justice, n.d.). Besides, student or employee registrants in any university or college of California must register with campus police within five working days after enrollment or employment. It is also essential to update the registration information yearly. According to the Wetterling law, transients have to update their address every 30 days, while sexually violent predators have to do it quarterly. There is no fee charged for either registration or update of a sex offender’s details. Information collected during registration includes offender’s name, address, photo, and law enforcement identification number (Shouse California Law Group, n.d.). The public is free to access data on sex offenders within their neighborhood over the internet on California’s Department of Justice’s Megan’s Law website (The US Department of Justice NSOPW, n.d.).
Failure to comply with California’s sex offender registration law leads to a conviction with a crime of failure to register as sex offender. As a result, the offender faces charges under Penal Code 290 (b). The law administers different punishments based on whether the crime committed was a felony or misdemeanor. In case when the convicted crime is a misdemeanor or first conviction for failing to register, non-compliance is also regarded a misdemeanor with a maximum stay in county jail for one year. Other misdemeanor probations include providing community service, seeking profitable employment, paying restitution fines of maximum thousand dollars, and being subject to a restraining order among others (Shouse California Law Group, n.d.). However, for convictions other than the first offence and felony crimes, failing to register is considered a felony with a possibility of state incarceration for sixteen months, or two to three years. Felony offenses also attract fines that do not exceed ten thousand dollars.
California has had many court challenges with the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act or Jessica’s law since 2006. This law prohibits registered sexual offenders from living within two thousand feet of a school or park, bringing much controversy in courtrooms (Wright, 2014). For instance, in 2011, the issue emerged in the trial proceeding of a habeas corpus case of four San Diego County parolees. The petitioners, William Taylor, Jeffrey Glynn, Julie Briley and Stephen Todd, who were registered sex offenders on parole, argued that residency restriction applied to them was unconstitutional. There was sufficient evidence to prove that the restriction significantly affected their ability to find housing in compliance with the statute, increased homelessness incidents, interfered with their admittance to medical institutions, addiction counseling services, rehab and psychological counselling centers (Stanford Law School, 2015). The residency restrictions brought more harm than good, thereby more endangering the safety of the community.
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The trial court ruled for the plaintiffs. There was enough proof of the unconstitutionality of mandatory residency restrictions. Not only did it subject the parolees to brutal treatment from law enforcement agencies, but also breached their privacy. The trial court also agreed with the petitioners on the need to assess each parolee’s special circumstance before deciding on whether to subject the individual to residency restriction. The Court of Appeal asserted the judgment of the trial court. A majority of the justices involved in the hearing of this case sided with the plaintiffs.
Personally, I believe that the laws regulating the lifestyle of sex offenders have gone overboard. For example, the primary intention of California Proposition 83 was to protect the community from sex offenses by controlling the criminal activities and enhancing the administered punishments. However, this was unsuccessful since it barred the parolees from approximately ninety-seven percent of multiunit apartments, thereby violated their constitutional rights (Wright, 2014). Besides these parolees cannot live near essential health care facilities, as most of them are located near schools, what, consequently, jeopardizes their health. In re Taylor discussed in topic 4, it is clear that the residency restrictions do not serve the interest of public. It is entirely unreasonable to deter people from living in places, where they can access beneficial social services, leaving them with the option of staying in an alley or riverbed. It is not only a bad way of reintegrating people into the community but also it increases an offender’s probability of committing related offenses. Nevertheless, the State’s blanket enforcement of such laws has hampered the promotion of public safety and violated the offenders’ rights to intrastate travel, ability to establish a home, and freedom from oppression and a right for privacy. In this sense, the laws meant to control the lifestyle of sex offenders hindered the duty of enforcement agencies in monitoring, supervising and rehabilitating the targeted individuals (Carpenter, 2012). Undoubtedly, these laws have no relationship with the original goal of safeguarding children from sexual offenders; thereby there is a need to have them restructured. I also believe that protection of vulnerable persons other than punishing offenders should come first when reconsidering these laws.
According to the Bill of Rights, the State should protect its citizens from sexual offenders. I believe that the laws overseeing sex offender registration are constitutional. A good percentage of these civil laws have an intent of enhancing the wellbeing of the society. The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) intended to ease the tracking process of sex offenders after their release into society. Community notification statutes also authorize the sharing of information concerning potential recidivists to protect children from predators living among them (Wright, 2014). Moreover, the community’s need to protect itself from sex offenders outweighs the intrusion suffered by the offender. Apart from that, right regulatory intentions motivated the legislations in place. In some rare cases, sex offender registration laws have been faulted for stigmatizing the offenders. However, public humiliation is meant to act as a tool for demonstrating a community’s disapprobation of a crime.
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The constitutionality of the registration laws depends on whether restriction serves a non-punitive purpose; it is not excessive in relationship to its assigned obligation (Carpenter, 2012). Therefore, public aims to regard sex offender registration as legal and constitutional, since it has the intent of protecting the community from sex offenders living in the neighborhood. I also support the Supreme Court’s opinion that any registration laws intended to track criminals are legal but withstand constitutional scrutiny. On the other hand, the law has to undergo careful structuring to reduce its punitive effect. In general, sex offender registration laws satisfy their civil aims and limit their disciplinary effects when possible.
Smith v. Doe Case Brief
John Doe I and II were the respondents in this case. The purpose of the case was to address the constitutionality of the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act that mandated convicted offenders register with relevant law enforcement authorities (IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, n.d.). Information such as the convicted person’s name, location, place of employment, details of crime and sentence, photograph and date of conviction was presented on the registry for public viewing. The Act being retroactive also applied to offenders, such as the respondents in the case, who were convicted before its passage. The Supreme Court of the United States concluded that the Act was rewarding and not castigating. Moreover, the Act did not violate the ex post facto clause of the Constitution and was, therefore, legal.
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According to the court’s decision, sex offender registry was not a punishment in any form. It was a result of the Alaska Legislature interest in protecting people from sex offenders. It was clarified that the Act established civil and non-punitive proceedings as an imposition of restrictive measures on sex offenders who could repeat the offenses. The reason behind the establishment of sex offender registries was to enhance public awareness of safety (Office of Justice Programs, n.d.). Justice Thomas concurred with the majority’s opinion and argued that it was improper to consider internet dissemination punitive, because the statute failed to specify ways of making the registry information accessible to the community.
Reynolds v. United States
This case tackled the retroactivity of the Adam Walsh Act (AWA). A federal jury indicted Reynolds for violating AWA, as it found that he engaged in interstate commerce when he moved from Missouri to Pennsylvania without updating his registry. This happened after the Attorney General issued an Interim Rule, which allowed the AWA’s criminal penalties to cover pre-Act offenders retroactively. Reynolds attempt to challenge the legality of the Interim Rule went futile, as he failed to prove the unconstitutionality of the registration. He was found guilty for intentionally failing to register and update his registration as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (Cornell University Law School, 2011). Furthermore, his actions violated the law, which required an update of one’s location within three days after a change of residence.
The Third Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision to dismiss Reynolds motion. However, SCOTUS reversed the Third Circuit and attempted to resolve the Circuit Courts’ split over whether a pre- SORNA offender could challenge the legality of the Interim Rule. The Supreme Court declared that the application of the rule was applicable to registrants who traveled in interstate commerce after the issuance of the Interim Rule. The Third Circuit was then directed to determine whether the rule set a valid specification to establish its extent of retroactivity. As a result, the State can prosecute an individual who moves from one city to another and fails to update registration after the adoption of the Attorney General’s Interim Rule.
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