Spring has begun and the flowers of justice are blooming. One of these flowers, which is especially beautiful and fragrant, is a decision issued today by the Massachusetts Supreme Court that significantly limits the use of GPS devices for those convicted of a sex offense even if the registrant is on probation.
In its decision, the Court determined that GPS monitoring of an individual convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography constitutes a violation of the Fourth Amendment which protects against unreasonable searches. Specifically, the court stated that “(t)he government’s strong interest in protecting the public from sex offenders”….does “not outweigh the privacy intrusion occasioned by GPS monitoring.”
It is significant that the Court acknowledged that registrants are harmed in several ways when they are required to wear a GPS device. For example, registrants’ jobs are threatened when they are required to leave their job site and walk around outside in order to regain a lost satellite connection. It is also significant that the Court acknowledged that GPS tracking devices amass “a substantial quantum of intimate information about [a] person” and that information is stored indefinitely in a way that is currently unregulated by statute.
As sweet as the Massachusetts decision is, it does not mean that all registrants in that state will be free of the requirement to wear a GPS device. Instead, it means that the government must make a decision on a case-by-case basis whether a registrant in that state will be required to wear such a device.
Two additional beautiful and fragrant spring flowers of justice are recent acts in Connecticut and Virginia that will restore the civil rights of registrants and their loved ones. Specifically, the town of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, repealed a local law that prohibited registrants from visiting parks, schools, libraries and other public places. And the Governor of Virginia proposed the elimination of language in a law that would have prohibited registrants from entering emergency shelters.
Breathe deeply. Spring is here. And justice is blooming in many gardens.
— by Janice Bellucci
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