NH: Sex offender registry law is unconstitutional (Editorial)

Today, New Hampshire’s Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that will turn on the basic constitutional principle that criminal laws cannot be retroactive, thus punishing someone for an act that was legal at the time. Nor can the punishment for a crime be changed after the fact. Full Article

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I’m living in the wrong part of the country. Finally a newspaper that is willing to tell the truth.

Wrong coast! The beginnings of change for all registered citizens hopefully.

If this kind of factual and honest reporting continues I’ll have to drop the phrase “lame stream media.” This article and the other article on this site “My Son, the Sex Offender: One Mother’s Mission to Fight the Law” give me hope the media is finally accurately reporting our plight and these two articles are another indication the tide is turning.

You guys are getting ahead of yourselves. This is merely the registrant’s side of the case. The court has not ruled on this — so whether you’re on the wrong side of the country remains to be seen!

I will say, and something I noted from day one, when our court ruled that registration is not punishment so can be applied retroactively, they did so specifically by picking a case involving a misdemeanor, for which posting on the Internet is not allowed. It was even stated in the Castellanos decision that it did not address posting on the Internet and that it was possible in a case involving posting on the Internet that that might make a difference. Still, since then, there have been indications from the court that even posting on the internet is not a problem — although I don’t recall if that was stated in the context of retroactive punishment.

As with New Hampshire, the registration laws here have been made stiffer and stiffer with all kinds of collateral disabilities added. None of that was considered when our high court ruled on the matter — the court intentionally did not want that involved, because it would have gotten in the way of deciding as they wanted to decide. That is, our court picked and chose the case it would most easily bend to what it wanted.

So, there is still room to challenge registration based on all the additional disabilities not addressed when our high court ruled it is not punitive. Unfortunately, that would not necessarily nix the basic idea of registration, which itself should be abolished once one if off probation or parole. But at lest there is potential to limit it to that only, as it was prior to the mid 1990s.

If registration is deemed punishment, how can it be applied to anyone off probation or parole? Your are either off survelience or you have a lifetime probation, which means you are given two contradictory sentences. If they say lifetime probation stands, how can any sane person justify that for a class of people that has a miniscule reoffense rate?

Anonymous Nobody, I think you have a point about the laws being ruled non-punitive, but with the growing list of restrictions /collateral disabilities, it’s going to get harder and harder for lawmakers to maintain that non-punitive claim. Every legislative session sees additional restrictions against sex offenders, particularly those with child victims. About 3 years ago the state of TN added Public Libraries to the list of establishments that sex offenders could not live or work within 1,000 feet of. Now the list of off-limits places looks like this:

* Schools (Public, Private, & Parochial)
* Day Care Centers & Licensed in-home child care facilities
* Parks
* Playgrounds
* Athletic fields opened for use by the general public
* Public Libraries

That doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but you take a city the size of Memphis and look at it on a mapping application, and you see just how much of the city is off-limits:

http://tnmap.tn.gov/tdoc/

Click the “find address” button and enter 201 Poplar Memphis, TN and then zoom out. All the pink circles are off-limits areas for sex offenders. If an offender is on G.P.S. monitoring and they enter any of these exclusion zones, they are reported to their parole officer, who in turn calls them and tells them they must leave the area immediately. It doesn’t hardly matter where they are or what they’re doing.