Monday, February 27, 2017

Analysis: Justices skeptical of social media restrictions for sex offenders

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Packingham v. North Carolina, a challenge to a North Carolina law that prohibits registered sex offenders from accessing social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.

Amy Howe, at, writes that many of the Justices appeared skeptical of the law.
Justice Elena Kagan suggested that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter were “incredibly important parts” of the country’s political and religious culture. People do not merely rely those sites to obtain virtually all of their information, she emphasized, but even “structure their civil community life” around them. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg echoed those sentiments, telling the North Carolina official defending the law that barring sex offenders from social networking sites would cut them off from “a very large part of the marketplace in ideas.” Kagan was perhaps the most vocal opponent of the law, but by the end of an hour of oral argument it seemed very possible that Ginsburg and at least three of Kagan’s other colleagues would join her in striking down the North Carolina law.
 Read more at SCOTUS blog.

More here and here.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Statement in opposition to LB 300

The Legislature's Judiciary Committee heard testimony Friday on LB 300. The bill would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil actions against people accused of sexual assault of a child.

Derek Logue, of, issued a statement in opposition to the bill.

Read more.

Text of LB 300

Friday, February 24, 2017

The transformative potential of Does v. Snyder

Writing for the Boston College Law Review, legal scholar Melissa Hamilton explains how 2016's Does v. Snyder decision could influence judicial decisions in cases challenging sex offender registries.

Abstract: In late 2016, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s concluded in Does #1–5 v. Snyder that Michigan’s sex offender registry and residency restriction law constituted an ex post facto punishment in violation of the constitution. In its decision, the Sixth Circuit engaged with scientific evidence that refutes moralized judgments about sex offenders, specifically that they pose a unique and substantial risk of recidivism. This Essay is intended to highlight the importance of Snyder as an example of the appropriate use of scientific studies in constitutional law.
 Read more in the Boston College Law Review.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Supreme Court to hear Packingham case next week

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case next week that could impact the First Amendment rights of registered sex offenders nationwide.

The Marshall Project's Andrew Cohen takes a closer look at the Packingham case.
Lester Gerard Packingham was having a really good day back on April 27, 2010. The North Carolina man had just learned that a traffic ticket against him had been dismissed, so he logged onto his Facebook account and gleefully told the world: “Man God is Good! How about I got so much favor they dismissed the ticket before court even started? No fine, no court costs, no nothing spent… Praise be to GOD, WOW! Thanks Jesus.”
At the same time, Brian Schnee, a police officer in Durham, was doing his job, working to identify registered sex offenders in the state who were accessing sites like Facebook. 
Read the full story here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

FEARLESS meets Monday

The next FEARLESS meeting will be held Monday, February 20, at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street, in Omaha.

Registered citizens, family and friends are invited to join the discussion and enjoy the support of others in similar, difficult, situations. This month, we'll discuss ways to cope with the fear that comes with being on the registry.

Join the conversation at 7:00 p.m. Monday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Illinois Court Strikes Sex Offender Park Ban

An Illinois appeals court has found the state's law banning registered sex offenders from setting foot in public parks unconstitutional, because the law criminalizes innocent conduct.

The court's 2-1 ruling reverses the conviction of a registrant who was convicted of walking his dog in a park.
“We hold that section 11-9.4-1(b) is facially unconstitutional because it is not reasonably related to its goal of protecting the public, especially children, from individuals fitting the definition of a child sex offender or a sexual predator,” Justice Mary McDade wrote for the majority. “Nor is it drafted in such a way as to effect that goal without arbitrarily stripping a wide swath of innocent conduct and rights he has as a citizen and taxpayer from a person who has paid the penalty for his crime.”
Read more at Courthouse News.

Read the ruling here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Iowa considering separate facility for aging sex offenders

The state of Iowa is considering building a facility to house and care for elderly sex offenders. According to a report in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the director of the state's Department of Corrections, Jerry Bartruff, supports the idea.
That’s because finding places for elderly sex offenders to live after they’ve served their time in prison is very difficult, Bartruff said Monday during a community forum in Coralville. Iowa recently had three sex offenders who had served their time, but because they had no place to go, died behind bars.
Perhaps they'd have more options were it not for the state's residency restrictions.
Social workers help offenders find places to live at least 2,000 feet from schools and child care centers, as well as assist with identifying transportation, health care and a guardian, if necessary. If the offender has health needs, such as dementia, diabetes or depression, he may need nursing care. 
Read the full article here.

Report questions effectiveness of sex offender registries

Writing for the Sentinel of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, reporter Joshua Vaughn questions the effectiveness of sex offender registries -- especially since most new sex crimes are committed by first-time offenders.
The Sentinel reviewed more than 450 charged sex crime cases in Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry, Franklin and Adams counties in 2016 and found only 15 cases where the defendant was on the registry at the time of the offense.More than 96 percent of all sex crime cases in those five counties involved defendants who were not on the sex offender registry.“You can look at that and say ‘people on the registry aren’t committing sex crimes,’” Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed said.
Read more of Vaughn's report in the Sentinel.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Really, what are traveling pedophiles?

A response to New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, who released a statement marking the one year anniversary of the passage of International Megan's Law.
According to Smith who met with a delegation from Thailand which included Ambassador Pisan Manawapal and representatives for the Royal Thai Police, gratitude for the law was expressed. Purportedly 160 convicted sex offenders tried to enter Thailand during the past year. Worldwide 1,780 notifications of “pedophile travel” were sent to 64 countries, particularly those known to be destinations for child sex tourism.Now, my first issue is with Mr.Smith’s terminology.  He seems to believe that all sex offenders are pedophiles and then, to stir the pot even more, has drummed up a scary new term, “traveling pedophile”.I would think one needs to be somewhat educated to be a state representative, but Mr. Smith may prove me wrong here.
Read more here

Friday, February 10, 2017

Committee hears testimony on LB 60

The Nebraska Legislature's Judiciary Committee heard testimony regarding LB 60. Senator Brett Lindstrom introduced the bill as a reaction to a state Supreme Court decision that allowed a mother to maintain custody of her two daughters after she married a registered sex offender. The girls' father had sued for custody.
A district court rejected the father's request, and a four-justice majority on the Nebraska Supreme Court in August upheld the ruling, finding that the father didn't prove his ex-wife's new husband posed a risk to the girls.Lindstrom's measure would shift that burden of proof to the parent or guardian who allows a registered sex offender to spend unsupervised time with a child. It starts with the presumption that living with or otherwise spending unsupervised time with a sex offender is not in a child's best interest.The bill also would require everyone with custody or access rights to be notified that a sex offender is living with or has unsupervised access to the child.
Read more about Thursday's hearing online in the Lincoln Journal-Star

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Nebraska LB 60 could be problematic

Reporter John Chapman of Omaha television station WOWT-TV looks at LB 60, which will have a hearing this week.
The Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee will meet later this week to discuss a bill that, in part, would require registered sex offenders who live with children to prove that they are not a threat to the children in the home.
The bill was introduced by State Sen. Brett Lindstrom in response to a Nebraska Supreme Court decision allowing a mother to retain custody of her teenage daughters after she married a registered sex offender.

Read the text of LB 60 here.

Putting Trump's Travel Ban and IML into Perspective

Online commentary at Fight AWA linking President Donald Trump's recent travel ban to International Megan's Law.
Trump’s Travel Ban was eerily similar to the IML passed in February 2016 by the use of the wrong tools to address the stated problem and thereby expending political capital in exchange for real human lives. The President authorized the revocation of tens of thousands of existing visas and denial to millions of citizens of seven countries that had no ties to the small number of terrorist attacks in the U.S.    Trump and his cabinet argue that the travel ban is absolutely necessary for national security and warned that “many very bad and dangerous people” might enter the country.Sound familiar?  The same rationale was used to put IML in place, except of course that the stated purpose was to prevent child sex tourism abroad.
U.S. courts have acted swiftly to temporarily block the travel ban. No such luck as of yet with efforts to challenge IML.

Read more here.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Report highlights uselessness of residency restrictions

A report from a Fox television station in Wisconsin highlights the uselessness of sex offender residency restrictions.

Reporter Brad Hicks explains how Wisconsin laws require registrants to live near places they're supposed to stay away from, and he highlights the low recidivism rates for sex offenders.
[A]n exhaustive study by the state here in Wisconsin reveals recidivism rates for sex offenders are remarkably low.  More than 16 percent of the overall criminal population re-offends within three years.For sex offenders, it’s 1.5 percent.The gap gets even greater as time goes on. Within 15 years of freedom, more than 46 percent of the general criminal population has re-offended -- a rate eight times higher than sex offenders.
Watch and read the report here.