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WA: Supreme Court – Records of low-level sex offenders are public

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington’s Supreme Court says information about low-level sex offenders can be released under the state Public Records Act.

The 7-1 decision Thursday overturns a King County Superior Court holding that found the records were not subject to disclosure. The ruling came in a case involving Donna Zink, a Franklin County woman who requested a copy of the Washington State Patrol’s sex-offender database. Full Article


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This is absolutely horrifying. Can this be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court?

Now potentially thousands of Registrants will become unemployed and homeless, more children raised in poverty, more free citizens assaulted, all in the name of protecting children.

The ruling points out that the legislature specifically did not follow a recommendation by the sex offender policy board to exempt level one information from being publicly disclosed, thereby justifying their decision to make such information publicly available. I understand the courts reasons and the strong disclosure laws we have in the state, however I blame the weak members of the legislature from not following the advice they specifically asked for from the policy board. The next step will be just to publish level I offenders on the public website. It is my understanding that the specific release of information will include actual home addresses, something they do not publish now.

It just keeps getting worse. When people get desperate and have no hope of a life what do you think might happen?

Well, in one country similar frustration in having one barrier after another placed in one’s path making it impossible to live a decent life resulted in self immolation, then revolution. Tunisia.
Oh, but that was way, way over there and couldn’t happen here.

I agree with everything you stated. This is complete BS. I’m in disbelief right now. Why do they continually ignore the facts, evidence, and advice of actual informed people/experts. I made a huge mistake and was convicted and required to register as a level 1 in Wash, got a suspended sentence and completed all the treatment program, community supervision etc. flawlessly. Once my sentence was completed I moved overseas to start a new life. I guess once they give this loon the database and she posts it online all someone has to do is google my name and everything I have worked so hard to rebuild falls apart. Do you know if the WSP still keeps information on registrants that have moved out of state/country or only registrants that are currently living in Washington?

So essentially? While the state will not maintain a database for low level offenders, she will personally create one? This is a bad situation; no matter what state you live in. This is the 1st time, a private individual is literally creating their own database, with no guidelines or oversight. This is a pretty big deal.

If you have been a low level offender who has lived a normal life for say the last 20 years … all that is about to change..when someone googles you, your sex offender information will now pop up

All registered offenders in the state of Washington should email the legislature and urge them to pass an exemption to the PRA, following the recommendations of the Sex Offender Policy Board. I will post the chairman of both the House and Senate Law and Justice committee chairman and committee members later tonight. If they get thousands of emails and letters, they may act. It will likely be too late to prevent the release of the information to this woman from Benton County, but it will prevent her from getting updates in the future.

Senator Hardgrove is retiring in the Senate and I do not yet know who will be stepping in. He is the ass who passed SB 5154 last year creating the international travel restrictions.

In the meanwhile before I get all the names listed here, you can google the committee members of the legislature on your own.

On the bright side, if they release the actual addresses of all offenders in Washington, then at least we can get that information and start creating a WA chapter of RSOL. Up to this point, I thought that information was unavailable, since they did not publish addresses on the website. It is about time that we did something here in Washington like California is doing.

No need to fear monger by saying EVERYONE is about to have their info posted. It’s just in Washington.
That being said, it IS a horrible precedent.
Janice, can an injunction be filed or is it too late for Washington?

Does this essentially mean that if you’re exempted from the megans law website, you’ll now be exposed? I don’t understand how they can legally provide a copy of that database when it’s supposed to be viewed only at Police departments. Or, am I wrong about it being viewed at the departments? For instance, I’m not listed on the website for CA but if you go browse at the police department, I believe I show up.

Well, I just searched her name. She sounds like a nut. Clearly not level headed. I imagine there are laws which determine the abuse of information. I suggest someone file suit against her and let’s see how she feels. Someone has posted a blog/photos of her. Let’s post her photos/full name and address.

To: MatthewLL. and any interested Washington advocate: Are you a member of SOSEN ? I’m starting with that question, because they have deep knowledge of what organizing is all about. They have been around for longer than any other organization. You can learn of how difficult it is concerning a mailing and responses, let alone the expense. New York State is an example. Please, join them; it’s free. Then post the problem on their members only site.

Next, CA RSOL has used membership turnouts effectively in courts and at the legislature. But the concentration of active members is in the Los Angeles area. While they are working hard to strengthen a branch chapter in the San Francisco / Sacramento area there is still the looong drive to Sacktown for the LA core group. But that isn’t the case in Washington: The core group will inevitably be in the Seattle area, and it’s only an hour’s drive to the Legislature in Olympia for turnouts at Committee/ public input.

And then there is Brad….I’ve been corresponding with Brad Meryhew for some time now. He is, and has been the best person for our cause in Washington State. He is as close to being what Janis is to CA RSOL. He is our representative at the SOPB meetings. But he is very busy with his law practice, and how much he could help a new organization is something I don’t know.

Washington State remains a Democrat stronghold.The Legislature supports risk, and not conviction-based like AWA wants. But the cops want AWA, and the fight will go on. Sb-5154 was a compromise bill. But now level one is getting screwed. We must organize. I’m not a leader, but if I get it my head that there are people who will commit to this, I will move to you from New Mexico to help.

Let me just say that I have mixed feelings about Brad Meryhew. My excellent attorney used an affidavit from him and a few other attorneys to pull my butt out of the fire and keep me from an indefinite sentence, or even a felony conviction. With that said however, he also testified at the legislature in support of SB 5154 which has the international travel restrictions. He is a member of the sex offender policy board. When I called to ask a small favor from him as part of my lawsuit against the state on SB5154 (and I was going to pay him for his time) he never called me back. I spoke with his assistant and he was clearly aware of what I was looking for.

He may be a good defense attorney, at least his reputation says so, but he is not really an advocate fighting against sex offender registration. At least that is my take on it. He is definitely no Janice.

I’ve read about this lady in the past, she wanted the names for her web page. Yes there are more people out there just like her that plan to save the world. Tier 1 would of likely been public in the next Election or two. These same type of good Citizen’s are pushing out the Strip Clubs and saying they belong among the factories. Being that records are open, people in Washington state need to research
Elected Officials family members, also News Channel family members. It’s really not hard to do, it just takes effort on your part. Eye for an Eye.

I published her address in case anyone wants to file litigation.

It seams that the Freedom of Information Act may really screw us all: “If the information you want is not publicly available, you can submit a FOIA request to the agency’s FOIA Office. The request simply must be in writing and reasonably describe the records you seek. Most federal agencies now accept FOIA requests electronically, including by web form, e-mail or fax”. The only exemption I can find that may relate to us is this rule:

Documents which are “personnel and medical and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6).

This exemption protects the privacy interests of individuals by allowing an agency to withhold personal data kept in government files. Keep in mind that by the plain terms of the statute, only individuals can have privacy interests. By definition, corporations and other “legal persons” can have no privacy rights under the Exemption 6 because there can be no objective expectation attaching against an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Occasionally, agencies or business submitters of information will assert Exemption 6 when, in fact, the proper analysis should sound under Exemption 4.

(a) The Supreme Court has reviewed the application of this exemption. It noted: First, in evaluating whether a request for information lies within the scope of a FOIA exemption, such as Exemption 6, that bars disclosure when it would amount to an invasion of privacy that is to some degree ‘unwarranted, ‘a court must balance the public interest in disclosure against the interest Congress intended the [e]xemption to protect.”

Department of Defense v. F.L.R.A., 114 S.Ct. 1006, 1012 (1994).

(b) The Court continued:

Second, the only relevant “public interest in disclosure” to be weighed in this balance is the extent to which disclosure would serve the “core purpose of the FOIA,” which is “contribut[ing] significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government. Id.

In other words, the requested materials must in some way illuminate “what the government is ‘up to'” in order to justify disclosure. A request for information from the government which illustrates what you neighbor, or business competitor, is “up to” will not meet the public interest balancing test under exemption 6. The exemption requires agencies to strike a balance between an individual’s privacy interest and the public’s right to know. However, since only a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy is a basis for withholding, there is a perceptible tilt in favor of disclosure in the exemption. “In the Act generally, and particularly under Exemption (6), there is a strong presumption in favor of disclosure.” Local 598 v. Department of Army Corps of Engineers, 841 F.2d 1459, 1463 (9th. Cir. 1988) (emphasis added). In that case, the Ninth Circuit reviewed the context of applicable Exemption 6 case law:

The Freedom of Information Act embodies a strong policy of disclosure and places a duty to disclose on federal agencies. As the district court recognized, ‘disclosure, not secrecy, is the dominant objective of the Act.’ Department of the Air Force v. Rose, 425 U.S. 352, 361, 96 S.Ct. 1592, 1599, 48 L.Ed.2d 11 (1976). ‘As a final and overriding guideline courts should always keep in mind the basic policy of the FOIA to encourage the maximum feasible public access to government information….’ Nationwide Bldg. Maintenance, Inc. v. Sampson, 559 F.2d 704, 715 (D.C.Cir.1977). As a consequence, the listed exemptions to the normal disclosure rule are to be construed narrowly. See Rose, 425 U.S. at 361, 96 S.Ct. at 1599. This is particularly true of Exemption (6). Exemption (6) protects only against disclosure which amounts to a ‘clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.’ That strong language ‘instructs us to ’tilt the balance [of disclosure interests against privacy interests] in favor of disclosure.'”

Moreover, the Privacy Act of 1974 regulates the disclosure of personal information about an individual. The FOIA and the Privacy Act partially overlap in this regard, but there is no real inconsistency. An individual seeking records about herself should cite both laws when making a request. This will ensure that the maximum amount of disclosable information will be released. Also remember that records which can be denied to an individual under the Privacy Act are not necessarily exempt under the FOIA.

What public interest? The state law already says the names do not need to be made public. Studies of public registries show they do not uphold their stated goal. The public interest has to mean more than that the public is just interested in knowing something about their neighbor.

Washington State law limits what Law Enforcement can publish, but not what can be released under a public records act (PRA) request. During the last legislative session the Sex Offender Policy Board recommended making Level I offender information exempt from public disclosure in Washington State, but they did not accept it. At least it will not have photos attached to the information. Hey, if we all legally changed our names to John Smith, that might mess it up for this woman and make it more difficult for Law Enforcement.

This lady is a raving lunatic with almost zero followers, for now.. On her facebook page she proclaims that sex offenders have more rights then regular citizens, i’m not making this up.
She also says the tier 1 registrants are people who have been convicted of heinous crimes.

The WA Supreme Court said it is okay for this woman to post Level 1 registrants because the legislature did not specifically prohibit it.

Let’s start with the foregone conclusion that the legislature cares nothing about rehabilitation and restoration.

However, by allowing some individual to upload the entire registry to a website, they should be made to realize that they are putting many more than just registrants in harm’s way.

Perhaps this should be framed as a public safety issue for non-registrants as well as for economic reasons as follows:

An individual such as this Zink woman may have the wherewithal to upload a bunch of names and addresses one-time or on a very rare basis. There is no requirement that it be current or accurate. Given that people do move regularly, it is very likely that in less than a year’s time this online hit list will be extremely outdated.

Pretty soon, there will be a bunch of people wondering why their neighbors are being so rude and cold. Realtors and landlords will have to contend with people thinking a registrant lives next door, when that person may have moved out years ago. Ultimately, a vigilante will attack a ‘sex offender’ who isn’t even a sex offender – that just happens to live at the address.

Even if the legislature could care less about registrants, they should care about the potential unrest this kind of rogue and unregulated website causes. And shame on the politicians of the WA Supreme Court for not even considering the profound public safety implications of handing over incendiary information in the complete absence of safeguards.

The information changes from day to day, so unless she keeps up with it every day, she will be giving out bad info. Perhaps this will bring problems for everyone that moves into out dated addresses.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x