Monday, July 31, 2017

Milwaukee considering revising residency restriction

Residency restriction laws are under fire across the country, including in Wisconsin. The Milwaukee City Council is considering a proposal to ease its current 2,000 foot residency restriction, to 500 feet.

The move is in response to a lawsuit filed against the city by six registered sex offenders.
The city's current ordinance bans many sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of places like schools, parks and day care centers. A measure set to be considered Monday by the Common Council would reduce that "buffer" to 500 feet. 
The proposal would also ease requirements for family members who have sex offenders living with them, and exempt those offenders whose most recent crime and incarceration was more than 10 years ago. And it would limit the city's residency restrictions to apply only to sex offenders required to register under state law for offenses against children.
 Under the current ordinance, only about 115 residential properties are available for registered citizens.

With all the caveats in the new proposal, perhaps the city should just throw in the towel , admit that legislating people into homelessness is bad public policy, and scrap the restrictions altogether.

Friday, July 28, 2017

DA to ask Supreme Court to review Pennsylvania sex offender registry decision

The District Attorney of Cumberland County Pennsylvania says he'll ask the U.S Supreme Court to review a recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that found the state's current sex offender registration law is punishment and can't be applied retroactively.

Just as in Nebraska, many Pennsylvanians saw their registration requirements increase when the state changed its laws in 2012.
“We’ve had clients where they’ve had previous registrations of 10 years or less than lifetime registrations and then having to come back and being told ‘you are now either lifetime or you are a 15-year registrant, 25-year registrant, something else,’” Cumberland County Chief Public Defender Michael Halkias said. “There’s been a lot of frustration from clients that it’s unfair that they now have these longer registration periods.” ... “Our position has always been that it is punishment,” Halkias said. “It’s been very difficult to explain to people why it’s not considered criminal punishment. … I can’t say why they rationalized it that way, other than they could and wanted to.” 
All due to a law based on the discredited notion of "frightening and high" sex offender recidivism rates.

Read more here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wyoming to make sex offenders pay for costs of registry

As funds from  a previous federal grant dry up the state of Wyoming is turning to sex offenders to pay the cost of the registry. 

According to a report in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, registrants will have to pay when they register and when they report any changes like a new job, address, or vehicle.  If you're a registrant, you may want to avoid even visiting the state of Wyoming.
“Say we get a tourist come in from out of town who isn’t currently registered in Wyoming,” Teton County Sheriff’s Sgt. Todd Stanyon said. “It’s going to cost them $150 bucks to register with us for initial registration. Say they stay for two weeks. Then when they deregister to tell us they’re leaving, they’re going to have to pay the $31.25.” 
To be fair, the sheriff doesn't seem sold on the merits of the new law.
“I think the bureaucracy it created is going to exceed the benefit of the money,” Stanyon said. “It makes it tough on everybody.” 
Read more here.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

PA ruling raises questions about registry's future

A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that changes made to the state's sex offender registration laws in 2012 could not be applied retroactively -- along with the court's finding that the registry is punitive -- raises questions about the future of the state's registry.
Ryan Tarkowski, a spokesman for the state police, which run the Megan’s Law website, said the court’s decision may result in the removal from the registry of sex-crime offenders who committed their crimes before the new version of the law took effect five years ago.
He called the ruling “a complex decision” that will “undoubtedly impact” mnagement of the registry.
Read more about the potential impacts of the decision here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Seeking to challenge Omaha residency restriction ordinance

Nebraskans Unafraid needs your help as we seek to challenge Omaha’s sex offender residency restriction ordinance.
If we do not challenge Omaha residency restrictions, a disabled Vietnam veteran will be removed from his rent-supported home. He is far from alone. Many other registrants are told where they may and may not live because of residency restrictions in Omaha and other cities.
Attorney Janice Bellucci, nationally known for her tenacious fight against residency restriction laws, has defeated over twenty-four municipal residency restriction ordinances in California. She is willing to help challenge these laws here in Nebraska for a reasonable fee of $5,000 plus $100 per hour for all additional time needed after the preliminary filing.
We need your help to fund this legal challenge in the next week. We already have $1,000 pledged and need everyone’s help in raising the rest.  Whether it is $1,000, $500, $100 or even $20, any gift is important and greatly appreciated.
Please send your gift to Nebraskans Unafraid in the next week so we can support Janice’s legal challenge. We must overturn onerous laws which do not improve public safety.
Bring your gift to our Fearless meeting on Monday, July 24, or send your donation to Nebraskans Unafraid, P.O. Box 6705, Omaha, NE 68106. We also accept donations through our website at
Your donation to Nebraskans Unafraid will help you or someone you know have a better chance at housing and chip away at the punitive laws that don’t enhance public safety.
Kenneth Ackerman

402 500-0312

(Remember...residency restrictions...Do. Not. Work. And are counterproductive. And may be unconstitutional.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Op-ed: America steals votes from felons

Writing for the Guardian former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold says that millions of American citizens are prevented from voting by discriminatory state laws that disenfranchise people with a felony conviction.
The right to vote is the most fundamental right of any democracy, granting it legitimacy as a means of government by instilling power in the people and not in politicians. It ensures “consent of the governed” and holds government accountable to the people: not law-abiding people, or moral people, or any other qualifier, but the people.
This most fundamental right is not and never has been about rewarding good citizens or even law-abiding citizens. It is not a luxury or a reward, handed out by the government as it sees fit. It is a right, and should not be conditioned on anything more than citizenship, and being of voting age.
With approximately 6.1 million Americans affected by felon disenfranchisement laws, some states are reconsidering their laws.

The Nebraska Legislature passed a bill this year that would have restored felon voting rights immediately after they complete their sentence, but Gov.Pete Ricketts vetoed the bill.

PA Supreme Court finds state sex offender registration law punitive

Another court ruling goes against a state sex offender registration law...this one from the highest court in the Keystone state.
In a big opinion today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided its state's sex offender registration law, though civil in design, was punitive in practice and thus cannot be applied retroactively.
Read more here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Should landlords be allowed to discriminate against former prisoners?

Registered citizens know how difficult it can be for those with a criminal record to find adequate housing. The Seattle City Council is considering a bill that would prohibit landlords from automatically banning ex-felons from housing complexes. According to a report in Seattle  Weekly, the council is also considering prohibiting landlords from using criminal background checks altogether.
“Why should we have a law that allows landlords to extrajudiciously punish somebody?” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold. “That’s what our criminal justice system is for, so why should somebody be able to withhold housing from somebody, to continue their sentence, when the courts have determined that their sentence has already been served and they’ve paid the price of their crime?” 
Would landlords also be prohibited from excluding people on the sex offender registry?

Read the full article here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Upcoming Fearless meetings

The Omaha Fearless meeting, normally held the third Monday each month, will
be held a week later than usual in July. We'll meet at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, July 24, at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo St., in Omaha.

The next Lincoln Fearless meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, August 1, at Calvary United Methodist Church, 1610 S. 11th Street in Lincoln.

Fearless is open to registered citizens, their families, friends, and invited guests. Join us in Omaha and/or Lincoln.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Registrant takes aim at Alabama restrictions

Sex offender registry laws in several states are under legal scrutiny. Add Alabama to that list, as a registrant there has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's laws.  

The Aniston Star reports on the case involving Michael McGuire.
McGuire was convicted of sexual assault in Colorado more than 30 years ago, before many of the modern punishments around sexual crimes were enacted into law, and his argument hinges on constitutional protections against punishments created after a crime is committed. 
After serving three years in prison and another on parole, he was released in 1989. He did not find himself in trouble with the law again until 2010, when he moved back to his native Montgomery to be closer to his mother and family. 
Upon returning to Alabama, McGuire went to a Montgomery police station to confirm if, as a convicted felon, he was in breach of any state laws. It was at the station he learned he had to register as a sex offender.
He couldn’t live with his wife, mother or brother in Montgomery, because the state required him to stay away from kids, schools and daycares. Soon he was jobless and living under a bridge, with “Criminal Sex Offender” stamped in red letters on his driver’s license. 
He feels like he’s in prison again, a prison without bars,”  said Phil Telfeyan, McGuire’s lawyer. “He is restricted where he can live, where he can take jobs. It’s like being a permanent prisoner.”
Read the full story here.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Major overhaul to Ohio sex offender registry?

Another state is considering changes that would reduce the number of people on its bloated sex offender registry. The Dayton Daily News reports that a committee is recommending changes to Ohio's registry.
The plan maintains the current three-tier registration system, but allows for low-level offenders to avoid registration at a judge’s discretion, allows offenders to petition to get off the registry after a set amount of time, and moves some crimes to lower tiers.The lower tiers have fewer restrictions.
 Read more in the Dayton Daily News.

Iowa prosecutor drops sexting charges against teen

Sanity prevails in Iowa, as the Marion County Attorney has agreed to not file charges against a teenage girl who sent racy (not nude) photos of herself to a
classmate. As reported by the Des Moines Register:
The girl was a freshman at Knoxville High School when she sent two photos in March 2016, one with a sports bra and underwear on and another that showed her topless with her hair covering her breasts. Marion County Attorney Ed Bull threatened to charge the teen with sexual exploitation of a minor after the photos were intercepted by law enforcement, unless she agreed to community service, a period of no phone and computer usage, and to attend classes on the dangers of "sexting." 
Had the girl been convicted of those charges, she could have been forced to register as a sex offender. Her parents issued a statement through the Iowa ACLU, which filed the lawsuit against the county attorney.
“We’re glad to see this matter put to rest. It’s appalling that a county attorney would presume to discipline our daughter by threatening her with the bizarre and terrifying serious criminal charges of sexually exploiting a minor—even when the minor he accused her of ‘exploiting’ is herself. He threatened our daughter with removal from our home, time in prison, and placement on the sex offender list. All this for texting photos that didn’t show any more skin than many swimsuit ads.
“It’s frightening to see the government step in with this sort of dangerous overreach and presume to play the role of parent. As her parents, we want to raise our daughter in the way we believe best protects her, including her self-esteem, without the county attorney imposing his own sexist moral standards and using dangerous scare tactics on a teenage girl.”

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Supreme Court sends mixed signals with Packingham decision

The Supreme Court clearly affirmed the First Amendment rights of registered sex offenders with its recent decision in Packingham v. North Carolina. Whether the decision signals the court's willingness to look at other restrictions imposed on registered citizens remains less clear, writes Bidish Sarma in a post on the American Constitution Society blog.

On the one hand, Sarma writes that Justice Kennedy's majority decision seems to indicate a broader concern with registration schemes across the country.
In a parenthetical note, the decision referred to “the troubling fact that the law imposes severe restrictions on persons who already have served their sentence and are no longer subject to the supervision of the criminal justice system,” and observed that this fact is “not an issue before the Court.”
Individuals who have seen or experienced the devastation wrought by society’s moral panic about sex offenders must feel a small measure of hope now that the Court has given a nod to the “troubling” restrictions so many endure.
Yet the court also seems to continue to accept the discredited assumption of high sex offender recidivism rates.
The first flare came during the oral argument. At one point, Justice Sotomayor seemed to accept the basic claim that the sex offender recidivism rate is abnormally high. According to the argument transcript, she said “Yes. There’s a high statistical inference that recidivism will follow with one sexual crime to another . . . .” The second signal appeared in Justice Alito’s concurring opinion. In it, he wrote that “[r]epeat sex offenders pose an especially grave risk to children. ‘When convicted sex offenders reenter society, they are much more likely than any other type of offender to be rearrested for a new rape or sexual assault.’ McKunesupra, at 33 (plurality opinion) . . . .” 
The court could soon take up a couple more cases that would shed more light on the future of sex offender registries and the rights of registered citizens. Stay tuned.

Read the full article at the American Constitution Society website.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Licensing laws block many ex-felons from employment

Stable, remunerative, employment is one key factor that helps people leaving prison from re-offending. Yet many people, including registered sex offenders, are prevented from certain jobs due to state laws that prevent ex-felons from obtaining occupational licenses.

Eric Boehm writes about the topic in a report for Reason, including how some legislators and organizations are working to change the laws that can prevent people from getting back on their feet, even many years after they have been released from prison.
Reformers say there are some circumstances where there are genuine health and safety reasons to deny a license to an ex-convict. "There is nothing wrong with developing laws and regulations that directly address the issue of safety," says Beth Johnson, director of legal programs at Cabrini Green Legal Aid, a Chicago-based nonprofit that helps individuals with criminal records find jobs and support services. Someone convicted of embezzlement reasonably can be blocked from becoming a licensed accountant, Johnson says, just like someone with a record of DUI could be stopped from becoming a truck driver.
But why should an embezzlement conviction prevent you from becoming a truck driver, and why should a DUI stop someone from becoming an accountant? "Those lifetime barriers need to have that direct nexus, where the conviction would cause harm to those we are trying to protect," says Johnson.
Read more at Reason.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Next Fearless on July 24

July's Omaha Fearless will be held one week later than normal. Fearless usually meets the third Monday of each month, but this month's gathering will be held on Monday, July 24.

Fearless is a chance for registered citizens, their families, and friends to come together to offer support, and share stories about life on the registry. We meet at 7:00 p.m., at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo St., in Omaha.

Please join us!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Changes in the works for California SOR

Major changes could be in store for California's sex offender registry under a bill in that state's legislature, which has support of a wide range of organizations, including law enforcement and victims groups, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle.

California currently has lifetime registration, with more than 100,000 people on the list.
SB421 by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would allow most sex offenders to come off the registry 10 to 20 years after they are released from prison, so long as they have not committed another serious or violent felony or sex crime.
The bill, which already has passed the Senate, would remove lifetime registry requirements for even violent offenders. Offenders who have committed rape, lewd acts with children or forcible sodomy would be able to petition the court 20 years after their release to be removed from California’s sex offender registry.
Offenders who committed misdemeanor battery, indecent exposure and felony possession of child pornography would be allowed to petition for removal from the registry after 10 years if they keep clean records.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

DOJ urges Supreme Court not to review Snyder

The Sentencing Law and Policy blog reports that the U.S. Department of Justice is asking the Supreme Court to not review the Sixth Circuit Court's decision in Does v. Snyder, which found provisions of Michigan's Sex Offender Registration Act unconstitutional. 

Michigan has appealed the Sixth Circuit Court's decision.
As reported in this post from last summer, a Sixth Circuit panel concluded in Does v. Snyder, No. 15-1536 (6th Cir. Aug. 25, 2016)...that Michigan's amendments to its Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) "imposes punishment" and thus the state violates the US Constitution when applying these SORA provisions retroactively.  Michigan  appealed this decision to the US Supreme Court, and SCOTUS in March asked for the US Acting Solicitor General to express its views on the case.
Yesterday, the Acting SG filed this brief with SCOTUS stating that in "the view of the United States, the petition for a writ of certiorari should be denied."
Read the DOJ brief here.

Read the 6th Circuit Court decision here.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Iowa can't block sex offender from having smart phone

An Iowa appeals court has ruled that the state cannot prohibit a registered sex offender from having a smart phone. The court ruled the internet restriction was unreasonable because the internet was not used in commission of the crime.

The 23-year-old man plead guilty to counts of lascivious acts with a child and assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, and the internet restriction was part of his probation conditions.

Read the court's ruling here.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Restoration of Rights Project

From the Collateral Consequences Resource Center, check out the updated
Restoration of Rights Project, a state-by-state guide with information on topics including: the loss and restoration of civil rights and firearm rights; judicial expungement, sealing, and set-aside; executive pardons; and consideration of convictions in employment and licensing. 

Check out the Restoration of Rights Project here.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Op-ed: Don't overlook fairness to accused

Attorney Ken Garten, writing in the Columbia (Missouri) Daily Tribune, says that the presumption of "innocent until proven guilty" often gets thrown out the window in cases of child sex the detriment of not just defendants, but the legal system itself.
Yes, these are horrible offenses, and children need to be protected. But the protections of the system also need to be balanced so the innocent accused who is subject to false or contrived allegations, or who is charged solely because of some long-ago historical allegation, is extended basic fairness in his defense that ensures protection from unfair exploitation of the innocent.
 Read Garten's full op-ed here.