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March 7, 2008

Additional (optional) readings on residency restrictions

Anyone deeply interested in the law, policy and litigation surrounding sex offender residency restrictions should check out a new student note (and other links) discussed here at my SL&P blog.  In addition, the group Human Rights Watch recently produced this extraordinary report titled "No Easy Answers: Sex Offender Laws in the US."  Though covering lots of issues, Chapter 9 of the report is focused on residency restriction laws, and it details some of the forms these laws have taken in states other than Ohio:

March 7, 2008 in Interesting outside readings | Permalink

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Georgia's Law seems too vague. I'm going to try and track down the actual statute (it wasn't cited in the report). But "where children gather" is not what I would call a concrete statute capable of putting offenders on alert. What happens when the sex offender's neighbor has a birthday party for their 12-year-old and they invite his entire class? Gathering of Children? Hmm...

Posted by: Alex | Mar 8, 2008 8:52:01 AM

Follow Up:

Here is the statute Ga. Code Ann., § 42-1-15 - Just put it into WestLaw and you get the whole thing. It was not very long at all. A few things about the statute, the word is not "gather" in the statute the legislature chose the word "congregate". I don't know if that affects the statute, but it may, up for debate. Also, any person who knowingly violates this statute is punishable by a MINIMUM of 10 years in prison. Also, the sex offender can't work within a certain area of these congregations either. Georgia is not screwing around - in fact, one of the legislators said his intent was to make the laws so severe as to force the sex offenders out.

Posted by: Alex | Mar 8, 2008 8:59:33 AM

For better place to post: I was watching 20/20 last night and conveniently enough a case of a sex offender was discussed. We have talked a lot about the sex offenders who should be locked up, perhaps even subject to life imprisonment; however, we haven't had much discussion about persons who are labeled as sex offenders who probably shouldn't be. Consider the following:

For most of coverage: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Stossel/Story?id=4400537&page=1 (note that there are 3 pages)

In Texas, Frank (19) and Nikki (15) were dating when Nikki urged that they have sex. They did. Nikki’s mother knew what was happening and took her mother to Planned Parenthood for birth control. Later, in a heated argument with Nikki, her mother went to the police because she knew it was illegal (age of consent was 17); however, she thought Frank would simply get a slap on the wrist. When she realized the seriousness, she tried to drop charges, but the state now had Nikki’s testimony of consensual sexual relations; the state said they would bring charges on their own.

Frank had the option of pleading guilty or going to court facing a potential 2-20 years in prison; he knew he had no hope of pleading not guilty, so he pled guilty and got 7 years on probation in which he was unable to be around children under the age of 17. He was unable to live with his 12 year old sister, so he moved. On Nikki’s 17th birthday, she moved in with Frank. Nikki and Frank got married a few years later and now have 4 children together. Frank was unable to take his own children to the park because it violated the probation order (I’m assuming either the court allowed him to live with his children or the order didn’t apply to his own children). Note: He has not committed another sexual offense.

In reflection, Nikki’s mother says, “If I would have known that the seriousness of what I was doing I would not have filed charges. I love Frank and he is good to my grandbabies and he is good to my daughter, and it just breaks my heart that for the rest of his life he's gonna be labeled a sex offender."

In justifying Frank’s punishment, Texas Senator Dan Patrick ( http://www.danpatrick.org/ ) states, “While it seems unfair, he was 19, she was 15. That's the price you pay. Even if you end up getting married ... We are a country of laws, and that's the law.”

So Senator Patrick seems to be arguing that it doesn't matter if it's fair if it is the law. Is he serious? Regardless, in labeling somebody as a sex offender, it seems to me that there should be more individualized assessments of the nature of the sexual offense. Would anyone argue that Frank is a threat to children? Even Senator Patrick recognizes that Frank is different than the other more serious offenders.

Hyle gets 5 months in a halfway house and Frank gets 7 years probation and removed from his family. Is this a problem?

Posted by: Robin Dunn | Mar 8, 2008 12:21:20 PM

Make that "For lack of a better place to post."

Posted by: Robin Dunn | Mar 8, 2008 12:22:39 PM

I think 19 year olds who sleep with 15 year olds ARE a problem, so yes. Just because the mom didn't think there was something wrong with it doesn't make it ok.

Posted by: Amanda McNeil | Mar 11, 2008 8:22:58 AM

Sex offender status for tongue kissing a minor under 13? http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/03/09/kissing.minors.ap/index.html

Posted by: Renata Y. | Mar 11, 2008 4:56:41 PM

If Senator Patrick wants to take the idealistic high-ground, I would point out that we would rather be labeled as a nation of justice and fairness, than one of laws. The law is our means to the end that is justice, but we need to regularly evaluate the means. I don't know the solution, and this situation is clearly an anomaly, but it is food for thought. I think the mother was looking for a Maury Show type of punishment. (i.e. put him in prison overnight to see how bad it is) and the result was preventing a loving father from going to the park with his kids. Think about the other things he couldn't do. What about any type of parents day at school, swim lessons for his children, etc.? It just seems terribly unfair - but according to the Senator that's acceptable because the law says so. I thought America was supposed to be a progressive nation of fairness and justice, guess not.

Posted by: Alex | Mar 12, 2008 8:20:49 AM

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