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AL: Sex Offender Law Challenged

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (CN) – Sex offenders in Alabama must comply with debilitating restrictions that encompass “virtually every facet of their lives,” eight men claim in a class action.

Eight John Doe plaintiffs sued General Luther Strange III and Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency John Richardson in Federal Court. The Aug. 20 complaint seeks court relief to prevent application of the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act, or ASORCNA, claiming the law is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit argues that the act violates due process by denying sex offender registrants certain fundamental rights. It also claims that the law is vague and should be declared void. Full Article

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  1. Marie

    This is great. We need every state to follow.

    I asked before if we could sue lawmakers and was told they had immunity.

    Hopefully this pans out!

  2. Janice Bellucci

    Kudos to the Alabama plaintiffs! They showed up, stood up and spoke up!! While the outcome is uncertain, they are to be commended for challenging laws that clearly violate the Constitution. Thank you for defending the Constitution.

    • HOOKSCAR

      So Janice, why can’t WE have a class action? Seems to me that the federal system needs to have this issue addressed. I am sure that we would have more than 8 class action.

    • steve

      What should happen is every chapter of RSOL around the nation should all file together on the same day. Now that would draw some attention.

      • HOOKSCAR

        They should also team up with W.A.R. in helping grow this group. The more people the louder the message.

  3. jo

    This looks like a no-brainer. That law is basically prison without the bars.

  4. majestik

    We really need to do the same thing. Registration is evil and reminds me of nazi germany. We have so many statistics now proving this 290 is not needed, and is unconstitutional. Does nothing to protect anyone and just makes it harder for people to move on and be happy. Lets take this to fed court janice. Its time.

  5. mike r

    Yes its time for the following or something very similar.

    This court has jurisdiction because ________________________________________________________________

    I the plaintiff  ______________________do hereby bring forth this motion for Declaratory and/or Injunction relief.

    Introduction.

    This motion is being brought forth as a as applied challenge to the constitutionality of the sex offender registration and notification laws or Megan’s law (CA Penal Code § 290, Sex Offender Registration Act) as applied to me.

    I am the plaintiff in this case. I am a United States citizen who resides in Sacramento, CA.
    I am a non-violent, non-contact first time ex-offender from a incident that occurred over a decade ago. There was never any physical contact between myself and any victim. I completed my prison sentence and parole supervision without any incidents or violations despite all the obstacles and conditions of parole that were placed on me because of the sex offender designation. I have been arrest free and a completely law abiding citizen since my release. I do not pose any cognizable risk to the public. I was already severely punished for my offense and have been subjected to intensive monitoring and supervision while on parole. I should not be subjected to these registration and notification laws that involve consequences that are severely detrimental to so many aspects of my life.

    Issues.

    (1) The sex offender registration and notification laws (CA Penal Code § 290, Sex Offender Registration Act) violate my constitutionally protected liberty interest in my reputation which is protected under the federal due process clause in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the California Constitution’s Article I, Section 7 on “due process, equal protection and the right to travel with an irrefutable presumption of future offending that is universally untrue and which provides no meaningful process to determine such facts.

    (2) The sex offender registration and notification laws (CA Penal Code § 290, Sex Offender Registration Act) violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution and the California Constitution’s Article I, Section 7 on “due process, equal protection and the right to travel

    (3) Sex offender registration and notification laws (CA Penal Code § 290, Sex Offender Registration Act) violate my constitutionally protected liberty interests by infringing on my freedom of movement and my freedom of association which is protected under the Fifth and Fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution and the California Constitution’s Article I, Section 7 on “due process, equal protection and the right to travel

    (4) Sex offender registration and notification laws (CA Penal Code § 290, Sex Offender Registration Act) violate my constitutionally protected right to liberty and to be free from unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive official actions, which is protected under the Fifth and Fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution and the California Constitution’s Article I, Section 7 on “due process, equal protection and the right to travel

    Facts.

    (1) My constitutionally-protected right to reputation is encroached upon by an irrefutable presumption of future offending that is universally untrue.

    These laws effectively brand me a “sex offender”, i.e., a public danger, for life. See Doe v. Pataki, 3 F. Supp. 2d 456, 467 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) [here in after Pataki III]; Doe v. Attorney General, 686 N.E.2d 1007, 1013 (Mass. 1997) [hereinafter Doe II];see also Bohn v. County of Dakota, 772 F.2d 1433, 1436 n.4 (8th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1014 (1986).

    Specifically, the public notification provisions imply that I am potentially dangerous, thereby undermining my reputation and standing in the community. Doe v. Poritz, 662 A.2d 367, 419 (N.J. 1995); cf. Neal v. Shimoda, 131 F.3d 818, 829 (9th Cir. 1997) (noting that “[o]ne need only look to the increasingly popular ‘Megan’s laws’, whereby states require sex offenders to register with law enforcement officials, who are then authorized to release information about the sex offender to the public, to comprehend the stigmatizing consequences of being labeled a sex offender”). Indeed, public notification that I am a convicted sex offender implicitly announces that, in the eyes of the State, I present a risk of committing another sex offense. Doe II, 686 N.E.2d at 144.

    The sex offender registration and notification laws violate my liberty interest in my reputation by making public my current personal address and current photo which is not public information and which puts me in physical harm every time I enter or leave my home and even while I’m in my home I can not feel safe. This information is also being publicly distributed on the Internet from privately owned and operated websites such as homefacts.com. That information being made public puts not only myself but my families lives and property in danger of physical harm, harassment and vandalism. These claims are not hypothetical situations or exaggerations, these claims are facts and the possibilities of these incidents occurring are real and in fact some have already occurred in my case. The Megan’s law website also displays my criminal record which is only available to authorized individuals who meet certain criteria and have a need to know basis, not to the general public at a click of a computer mouse.
    These laws affect and limit employment as very few employers will hire me simply because I am on a sex offender website that is accessible to the general public. These laws also restrict or limit my ability to travel for work or to be employed by local, state or federal agencies and severely affects my ability to obtain a business licence or business loans. They also limit what professions and careers that I can pursue and affect my personal and professional relationships in a severely negative way because of my inclusion on the sex offender registry and the publicly accessible Megan’s law website. These issues are not minor inconveniences but are major obstacles to my financial stability and to my fundamental right to life and liberty for me and my family. It also affects housing because very few property owners or property management organizations will rent to me for fear of vandalism and or the loss of present or potential tenants because of the accessibility to the registry by the general public. I am reluctant to move or purchase property for fear that I may violate some local ordinance or be forced to move because of some new law or ordinance being enacted and applied retroactively. I am also reluctant to move or purchase property for fear that I will be subjected to even worse harassment and vandalism by the community in which I move then I have already endured in my present location. These laws create real fears of being the victim of vigilante attacks, harassment and vandalism which forces me limit my activities to avoid being outside of my residence for fear of being harmed or harassed. I have had to call the police twice due to my family and I being physically threatened in one instance and having threats and profanity written all over our porch on the second incident simply because my information is on the Megan’s law website. My family and I have had our vehicles vandalized and our life’s threatened because I am subject to these registration and public notification laws. These laws cause me severe psychosocial stresses that cause major mental disorders such as major depression and anxiety disorders which can and do affect my ability to perform job duties or perform normal daily activities and to reintegrate into society. Once again these are not hypothetical, exaggerated incidents that have happened to other people but personal experiences in my case. I cannot move forward or successively reintegrate back into society because of all the collateral consequences caused by the registration and public notification laws.These collateral consequences will continue to cause me irreparable damage to my liberty interest as long as I am subjected to these registration and notification laws.

    I have a liberty interest protected by the Constitution that entitles me to procedural due process because of: (1) the public disclosure of accumulated and synthesized personal information that would not otherwise be easily available; (2) the harm to my personal and professional life; (3) the foreseeable harm to my reputation; and (4) the statutory branding of me as a public danger, i.e., as a sex offender. I note that the “interest cannot be captured in a single word or phrase. It is an interest in knowing when the government is moving against you and why it has singled you out for special attention. It is an interest in avoiding the secret machinations of a Star Chamber.” Noble, 964 P.2d at 995.

    The Supreme Court has fed the fear of frightening high sex offender recidivism rates that has proven to be universally untrue. It’s become the “go to” source that courts and politicians rely upon for “facts” about sex offender recidivism rates that aren’t true. Its endorsement has transformed random opinions by self-interested non-experts into definitive studies offered to justify law and policy, while real studies by real scientists go unnoticed. The Court’s casual approach to the facts of sex offender re-offense rates is far more frightening than the rates themselves, and it’s high time for correction.

    The sources relied upon by the Supreme Court in Smith v. Doe, a heavily cited constitutional decision on sex offender registries, in fact provide no support at all for the facts about sex offender re-offense rates that the Court treats as central to its constitutional conclusions. This misreading of the social science was abetted in part by the Solicitor General’s misrepresentations in the amicus brief it filed in this case. The false “facts” stated in the opinion have since been relied upon repeatedly by other courts in their own constitutional decisions, thus infecting an entire field of law as well as policy making by legislative bodies. Recent decisions by the Pennsylvania and California supreme courts establish principles that would support major judicial reforms of sex offender registries, if they were applied to the actual facts.

    I am asking this court to apply the actual facts submitted in reports from the leading authorities and credible experts in the fields such as the following.

    California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB)

    Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 1.8% (page 38)

    The full report is available online at.
    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdcr.ca.gov%2FAdult_Research_Branch%2FResearch_documents%2FOutcome_evaluation_Report_2013.pdf&ei=C9dSVePNF8HfoATX-IBo&usg=AFQjCNE9I6ueHz-o2mZUnuxLPTyiRdjDsQ

    Document title; A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment Author: Robert J. McGrath, Michael P. Lasher, Georgia F. Cumming Document No.: 236217 Date Received: October 2011 Award Number: 2008-DD-BX-0013

    Findings: Study of 759 adult male offenders under community supervision Re-arrest rate: 4.6% after 3-year follow-up
    The sexual re-offense rates for the 746 released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates.

    The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236217.pdf

    Bureau of Justice Statistics
    5 PERCENT OF SEX OFFENDERS REARRESTED FOR ANOTHER SEX CRIME WITHIN 3 YEARS OF PRISON RELEASE
    WASHINGTON, D.C.

    Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today.

    The full report is available online at. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm

    Document Title: SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING IN WASHINGTON STATE: RECIDIVISM RATES BY: Washington State Institute For Public Policy.

    A study of 4,091 sex offenders either released from prison or community supervision form 1994 to 1998 and examined for 5 years Findings: Sex Crime Recidivism Rate: 2.7%

    Link to Report: http://www.oncefallen.com/files/Washington_SO_Recid_2005.pdf

    Document Title: Indiana’s Recidivism Rates Decline for Third Consecutive Year BY: Indiana Department of Correction 2009.

    The recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%, one of the lowest in the nation. In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low. Findings: sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%

    Link to Report: http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/RecidivismRelease.pdf

    These conclusions are virtually the same in the majority of reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community.

    (2) The sex offender registration and notification laws are discriminating irrationally among classes of ex-offenders which violates the equal protection clauses.

    All sex offenders fall into the classification of felons and felons are a group or classification. The question is, are sex offenders being treated the same as all other felons, do other felons have to register or have the community notified of their presence after they have completed their sentence, are they being denied state and government services, are other felons restricted where they can live, work and recreate, do other felons face criminal prosecution, a felony offense which is punishable by three or more years in state prison, not for engaging in any type of criminal conduct but simply for not providing personal information to the government within a certain time frame? The answer is, no they are not. The courts have found that a distinction among members of the class of offenders is irrational regardless of the importance of public safety consideration underlying the regulations or relevance of prior convictions simply discerning any regulatory reason, however plausible, will not serve to satisfy the rational basis requirement of equal protection; relevant inquiry more properly focuses on whether the means utilized to carry out the regulatory purpose substantially furthers that end.

    These laws do not substantially further the regulatory purpose or the legislative objectives of increasing public safety, reducing sexual abuse or preventing recidivism as evidenced in the following reports and actual facts from the leading authorities on this subject.

    California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) End of Year Report 2014. (page 13)

    Under the current system many local registering agencies are challenged just keeping up with registration paperwork. It takes an hour or more to process each registrant, the majority of whom are low risk offenders. As a result law enforcement cannot monitor higher risk offenders more intensively in the community due to the sheer numbers on the registry. Some of the consequences of lengthy and unnecessary registration requirements actually destabilize the life’s of registrants and those -such as families- whose lives are often substantially impacted. Such consequences are thought to raise levels of known risk factors while providing no discernible benefit in terms of community safety.

    The full report is available online at. http://www.casomb.org/index.cfm?pid=231

    National Institute of Justice (NIJ) US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs United States of America.

    The overall conclusion is that Megan’s law has had no demonstrated effect on sexual offenses in New Jersey, calling into question the justification for start-up and operational costs. Megan’s Law has had no effect on time to first rearrest for known sex offenders and has not reduced sexual re offending. Neither has it had an impact on the type of sexual re offense or first-time sexual offense. The study also found that the law had not reduced the number of victims of sexual offenses.

    The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=247350

    The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School Article DOI: 10.1086/658483

    Conclusion.
    The data in these three data sets do not strongly support the effectiveness of sex offender registries. The national panel data do not show a significant decrease in the rate of rape or the arrest rate for sexual abuse after implementation of a registry via the Internet. The BJS data that tracked individual sex offenders after their release in 1994 did not show that registration had a significantly negative effect on recidivism. And the D.C. crime data do not show that knowing the location of sex offenders by census block can help protect the locations of sexual abuse. This pattern of ineffectiveness across the data sets does not support the conclusion that sex offender registries are successful in meeting their objectives of increasing public safety and lowering recidivism rates.

    The full report is available online at. http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.

    From Justice Policy Institute.
    Estimated cost to implement SORNA
    Here are some of the estimates made in 2009 expressed in 2014 current dollars: California, $66M; Florida, $34M; Illinois, $24M; New York, $35M; Pennsylvania, $22M; Texas, $44M. In 2014 dollars, Virginia’s estimate for implementation was $14M, and the annual operating cost after that would be $10M.

    For the US, the total is $547M. That’s over half a billion dollars – every year – for something that doesn’t work.

    http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf

    These conclusions are virtually the same in the majority of conclusions and reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community.

    (3) The sex offender registration and notification laws violate my right to freedom of movement and freedom of association by severely curtailing my ability to travel both interstate and intrastate and also international travel. With all the different state laws and local ordinances that are in place and the constant introduction of new legislation in the different states and the constantly changing local ordinances in thousands of cities and counties across the country, it makes it virtually impossible for me to travel or visit anywhere in this country without a very real fear and potential for violating one of these laws or ordinances. It is virtually impossible for a person of average intelligence to research, assimilate and abide by all the different state laws and local ordinances that apply to registered sex offenders across the country. I can not visit family or friends without extensive research of local ordinances and state laws and even after extensive research I still fear I could have missed one of these laws or ordinances. I can not attend meetings or protest that occur in places that prohibit registered sex offenders from being present. The punishments for violating one of these laws or ordinances are severe. The registration and notification laws makes it virtually impossible for me to travel to a multitude of major countries in the world as they are notified by our government of my registration status so therefore I am denied entry. These are not hypothetical situations and are not minor inconveniences of registration but are major violations of my constitutional rights to liberty. These violations will continue to cause me irreparable damage as long as I am subjected to these registration and notification laws.

    (4). The sex offender registration and notification laws violate my right to be free from unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive official actions. These laws are completely irrational as applied to me in my case since I currently pose no cognizable risk of re offense. Since I am a non-violent, non-contact, first time ex-offender from a incident that occurred over a decade ago there is no rational basis to continue to subject me to these laws that have consequences that destabilize my life, restricts my abilities to reintegrate into society and have been shown to actually increase known risk factors for re-offense while not achieving any legislative objective of preventing sexual abuse, increasing public safety or reducing recidivism. Since these laws have been seen as strictly regulatory in nature and not considered part of the punishment for an offense, there must be some evidence that the regulations actually achieve some legislative objective. These laws were originally designed to give law enforcement a tool to investigate and apprehend sexually violent predators, child abductors/rapist and habitual repeat offenders when such acts have been committed in the community but have since been expanded to the point to make the registration and notification laws useless to law enforcement or the general public. Just because these laws are so popular within the legislature or the public does not mean that there is a rational basis for such laws. With the facts and evidence of all the destabilizing collateral consequences I endure and all the recent research done on this subject there is overwhelming evidence that these laws are completely irrational and counterproductive especially when applied to non-violent, first time offenders such as myself who currently pose no cognizable risk of re-offense.

    Conclusion.

    (1) The sex offender registration and notification laws (CA Penal Code § 290, Sex Offender Registration Act. ) as applied to me, severely violate my fundamental liberty rights to my reputation and to my right to due process.

    (2). The sex offender registration and notification laws (CA Penal Code § 290, Sex Offender Registration Act. ) violate the equal protection clause.

    (3)  The sex offender registration and notification laws (CA Penal Code § 290, Sex Offender Registration Act. ) violate my freedom of movement and freedom of association.

    (4). The sex offender registration and notification laws (CA Penal Code § 290, Sex Offender Registration Act. ) violate my right to be free from unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive official actions.

    Supreme Court Justice Brandeis noted that the Founding Fathers
    recognized the significance of man’s spiritual nature, of his feelings and of his intellect. They knew that only a part of the pain, pleasure and satisfactions of life are to be found in material things. They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the government, the right to be let alone-the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.
    Olmstead v. United States,277 U.S. 438, 478 (1928) (Brandeis, J., dissenting), overruled in part by Berger v. New York,388 U.S. 41 (1967) and Katz v. United States,389 U.S. 347 (1967).

    Law enforcement already has accessible records of my criminal record, including my DNA, my photograph and my complete set of prints and can easily locate me if they were to implicate me in a crime in the future. That process is the alternative to sex offender registration and notification laws and is the least restrictive measure that is available to the government that is related to the legislative objectives of increasing public safety and preventing recidivism. Furthermore, the government already has a meaningful process to determine if an individual poses a significant risk for re offense before ever releasing the person from custody. It is available in the states civil commitment statues. If a person is found to present a potentially high risk of re offense then that individual is confined under the civil commitment statues until it is determined that they no longer pose a risk to the public.
    It is in the public best interest to grant me this relief as it will increase my ability to reintegrate into society and increase the probability that I will maintain stability in my life and be a law abiding, productive member of society which actually decreases my risk for re-offense even further. It will also allow governmental agencies and law enforcement agencies to re-direct their limited resources to monitor high risk offenders more intensively thereby increasing public safety. It will also save the state tax payer dollars that can be used for policies that have proven to actually be effective.
    These laws will continue to cause me irreparable damage if the court fails to grant me relief.
    No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are effective in doing so.

    Prayer.
    I pray the court grant me Declaratory relief and/or Injunction relief or any other relief the court deems necessary and to enjoin local, state, and federal agencies from requiring me to register as a sex offender and subjecting me to the public notification laws (CA Penal Code § 290, Sex Offender Registration Act. ) .

    I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct to my knowledge on __________ Signed: _____________________________

    7

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