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Kat’s Blog: Living in the Gray Zone

A local “sex offender treatment group” recently had a guest speaker from the sheriff’s office. He was there to speak about the do’s and don’ts of the registry.

My first thought was “shouldn’t everyone in group have been informed of the do’s and don’ts when they were first put on the registry? Isn’t that when registrants should be provided with all the information they will need to be informed registrants? Instead, they wait till the registrants are all assembled in a treatment group that the registrants are paying for to be given “iffy” information that they should have received for free, on day one. Never mind that having a guest speaker takes up an entire treatment session which puts everyone’s individual presentations back another week in the already snail’s pace progression of treatment.

Registrants live in a gray zone, ironically that’s the color on the local registry map where they are allowed to work and reside.  The gray zone is also the answer to many questions registrants may have when it comes to the registry’s do’s and don’ts.

The guest speaker brought up an example of a working condition for a registrant. His example was as follows: If a registrant has his own business, for instance, a lawn care service which he operates from his home, well then the registrant would be OK to go cut lawns anywhere, even within restricted buffer zones because his job is static, he’s not staying in one place very long. WHAT??????

I think it’s fairly safe to say that if the police happened to check the ID of a registrant that was just minding his own business, mowing someone’s lawn but it was within the restricted buffer zone of a school or a playground, he would be carted off to jail fairly quickly, no questions asked.

The gray zone. How one officer interprets the law is not necessarily the same way another interprets it.

A P.O. in the group was surprised to learn that her charges could go to McDonald’s after years of telling them they couldn’t because many have indoor/outdoor play areas. Playground, play area, it’s all open to individual interpretation because nobody seems to have a definite answer. The gray zone.

When one registrant asked if he would be able to “float” to a different facility he worked in, just for the day, even if it was in a buffer zone, the answer was “that’s a gray area you’ll have to ask you P.O.”

Shouldn’t everyone involved with the registry be playing by the same playbook?

The answers need to be clear cut for everyone.

There are so many jobs where an employee needs to attend a company function that’s outside of their regular work space. Can they attend or not?  It’s not their “regular” workspace, if they’re only there for a short time, isn’t that “static”, isn’t that the same as the guy on the lawn mower?

The gray zone turns many registrants into hermits.  They are afraid to come out of their houses for fear they will somehow violate a registry restriction, a restriction that neither they nor their P.O., nor those running the registry fully understand.

This gray zone is cruel and unusual punishment.

 

Join the discussion

  1. TS

    Give the LEOs and POs the ability to define what they feel is right, they will run afoul of the law and interpret for their own good, not what the law says. Those who are impacted by the registry should read the law and ask others who are savvy on the law, not those who admin the law, e.g. do as I say, not as the law is written.

  2. Anonymous

    That group is not a treatment group. Law enforcement was in the room? No eff’n way!!! Tell the Judge immediately if not sooner. Probation is lying.

  3. Aman

    Ok, here’s the problem. (1)… From my own experience I can tell you that the administrators of long and expensive sex offender programs simply do not know what the do’s and don’ts of what registrants can do, where they can go and for how long are… (2)… The “gray zone” changes constantly not just from LE interpretation, but from federal, state and local “Bills’ that keep flowing down the pipe (very quietly) making what was ok (maybe) yesterday to throw “HIM” in jail today. It is sites such as this one that are some of the best resources for what we can and cannot do from state to state…..

  4. ab

    This is why registration requirements vary state to state even for visiting registrants and federally for travel purposes outside the United States.

    This is why there are varying presence and residency restrictions between cites within a county and between counties in a state.

    This is why the interpretation of county probation, state parole, and federal supervised release regulations vary from office to office or agent/officer within an office.

    This is why local cops, county sheriff’s, state police, parole agents, probation officers, and U.S. marshals can be part of compliance check teams.

    This is why different treatment or counseling programs exist.

    This is why there are offense levels and registry tiers that may or may not align across the country.

    And the list goes on and on because every imaginable entity with an interest or dollar invested in the process somewhere has their own unique spin regarding the right approach.

  5. Maltzur

    One example I have personally taken advantage of, is the tendency for police departments to just hate paperwork. It works like this… You visit some place, and realize you have to register. So, you call the officer in charge of registration, and in your best “Gomer Pyle” attitude, say how you’d like to register while you’re visiting that officer’s jurisdiction; to do whatever it is you’re doing there. At some point, the officer is going to ask how long you are visiting. If you say less than a week; most will say something to the effect that they don’t want to deal with the paperwork, just leave a voicemail message when you leave!

    • Jm from wi

      Works till you get a speeding ticket.

      • AJ

        I’m with @Jm from wi on this one….all works great until one of them decides to show you he’s the law. Then the doofus you spoke to will magically have no recollection of any such discussion. Remember, verbal agreements are worth only the paper they’re printed on…

  6. Chris f

    I would love for a lawyer to explain why this hasn’t been properly challenged on separation of powers and substantive due process grounds.

    A judge should make clear and have the sole job (with jury) of determining restrictions and the duration of restrictions that apply to a convicted person during the fair sentencing portion of trial. They must be narrowly tailored to the person and circumstances. Exceptions to this should be very narrowly taylored. An example would be someone previously convicted of a sex crime against a child could statutorily denied a job in child care. No legal penalty on the ex con. Just denial of that job.

    To do otherwise is against “ordered liberty” and violates separation of powers. It makes it so judges now have to consider an infinte number of ever changing collateral consequences when they adjudicate. It doesnt work.

    It also set precident across the board. If this issue were properly challenged and they ruled in favor of the legislature, then all of those ever convicted of ANY crime would need to research the local laws of every town they live in or travel to on a daily basis…because those laws can and will change daily. Nearby towns will constantly add more laws to keep from being safe havens and keep ex cons out by being tougher than their neighbor.

    I actually think the only way our fight could make progress is getting some city to pass crazy laws against another type of conviction like drunk driving. Imagine if some area makes it a jailable offense to drive through their area with any old drunk driving conviction? Or going to a bar? Shouldnt That “shock the conscious’ of an average citizen to know that can occur to someone that already paid their debt to society and made a deal with a prosecutor?

  7. Will Allen

    Bottom line – anyone who thinks this situation is okay in America needs to die. That’s the solution.

  8. AJ

    “The gray zone. How one officer interprets the law is not necessarily the same way another interprets it.”
    —–
    Compounding this problem is the fact that no matter WHAT the LEO interprets, the courts will uphold his/her actions as long as done with good intent. For some reason, the courts still trust those lying bastards/bitches.
    =====

    “The gray zone turns many registrants into hermits. They are afraid to come out of their houses for fear they will somehow violate a registry restriction, a restriction that neither they nor their P.O., nor those running the registry fully understand.”
    —–
    This is actually the basis of a strong legal argument. When there are conflicting answers among LE and State actors, and when a person of average intelligence cannot figure out what’s right and wrong, the law is ripe for attack as unconstitutionally vague. As well, the idea of turning people into hermits out of fear of under-reporting–or possibly over-reporting to be safe–is a strong argument for vagueness. For a good example of this argument, read Doe v. Harris regarding reporting of Internet IDs. For vagueness regarding conflicting answers, read Does v. Snyder.

    Collecting these varying “answers”, especially in writing, and then filing suit for vagueness could bear fruit. That fruit may not be what one wants, i.e. clarification of the laws versus voiding of them, but fruit it would be.

  9. Bo

    On the subject or grey areas, does anyone have any good case law on failure to register temporary addresses in california? What constitutes a residence? Or any favorite search terms?

    • ab

      Fun fact:

      In at least certain counties in southern California law enforcement could successfully argue a second or temporary residence as any place a registrant has a change of clothes. Whether this could be stand up in any state or federal court throughout California I am not sure, but annoying any authorities enough to test it out probably would be a horrible idea. Now under state law a registrant has to notify their local registering office if they will be gone from at least one of their registered addresses for more than seven days. So I would say anyone has a travel day to wherever they are going, seven full days to be gone, and a travel day to be back under state law before starting to potentially get themselves into trouble in California. Keeping in mind that if traveling to another state or out of the country additional notifications to local law enforcement and/or at your destination might be required by law.

      • Maltzur

        When you engage in interstate travel, you are subject to the federal requirements, which say you must register within 48 hours of arrival in another state’s jurisdiction; irregardless of what the local law is. Federal law has precedent, because of the interstate component.

        Legal Trivia: the Mann Act, which started out as a means of enforcing anti-miscegenation laws at the federal level is the basis of today’s child pornography laws.

        • JesusH

          Register within 48 hours of arrival in another state? What the!

          After 5 years of this nightmare I’m finally in a position to be able to do a real summer vacation. I was planning on taking the family back east. Maybe 6 or 7 days total split between New York and New Jersey. I looked up those state’s laws and didn’t think I was going to trigger having to register in any of them.

          But if the federal thing is true then I would have to register in both. I’m not sure I want to take this trip in that case 🙁

        • @Maltzur

          @Maltzur

          Please provide your online source for the federal 48 hours interstate travel registration requirement.

        • Maltzur

          I stand corrected… at the federal level, the requirement to register is “3 business days” (72 hours) not 48. Refer to SMART.gov website. Now, my interpretation is that it doesn’t matter if you’re traveling between 2 non-SORNA compliant states; they can (if they wanted to) get you for the interstate component. In other words, If I travel outside of CA to another non-compliant state, and IF I was a “high profile” person, they can get me for the interstate component.

        • TS

          @Maltzur

          Correction #2

          If one reads the first page of the 50 state and territorial summary provided by ACSOL and added to this website last year (https://all4consolaws.org/us-sex-offender-registration-laws/), then one would find this near the bottom, which corresponds with the USC cited: “NOTE REGARDING ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS UNDER SORNA: Please be aware that Federal law imposes additional requirements independent of the laws of each state. In particular, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) requires Registrants who change their residences to inform the jurisdiction within 3 business days of the change, regardless of any individual state’s registration requirements. 34 U.S.C. § 20913(c). The same applies to “change of name . . ., employment, or student status.””

          All the same, the verbiage is “inform the jurisdiction”, not register (please refer to the USC cited above). There is a huge difference for those who want to travel and want to stay within the law. Registration is only triggered if the law for visitors calls for it when time in the state is calculated as such. The traveler is highly encouraged to research the visiting requirements prior to visiting. Also, one’s profile has nothing to do with this requirement.

          As for JesusH and their presumed 6-7 day trip back east, they should be fine since one has three business days in each state to inform them of a change using the federal requirement. IOW, using the weekend advantage, one could fit the trip in as long as they leave on the third business day from one of the two states.

        • AJ

          @Maltzur:
          “I stand corrected… at the federal level, the requirement to register is “3 business days” (72 hours) not 48.”
          —–
          Careful there. 3 business days is NOT the same as 72 hours. If I arrive sometime on one day, I will only have until sometime two days later to get out. The tightest example is arriving in a State at 11:59 PM on Monday and leaving 12:01 AM on Wednesday. This would meet the 3-business-day criteria, even though I will have only been in that State for 24 hours, 2 minutes.

          Meanwhile, under the 72-hour method, I could arrive at 11:59 PM Monday and have until 11:59 PM Thursday.

        • TS

          @AJ

          Thank you for the reminder of “3 business days is NOT 72 hours, but 72 hours can be 3 business days”. Folks need to remember this as they travel since the popo will likely cut the times as short as they can and most popo shops are open 24/7 (minus those one horse popo places who lean on others to backfill).

  10. John Smith

    I, for one am paralyzed by anxiety and fear in my life. I think i have PTSD from everything I have been through in the past 20 years. Never knowing when something is going to change as it has so many times in the past already. Gray zone? More like the twilight zone….

    • Nathan Kliewer

      no more likely “paralyzed zone” you still can’t go anywhere.

  11. AC

    “The gray zone turns many registrants into hermits. They are afraid to come out of their houses for fear they will somehow violate a registry restriction…”

    And, thus, we’ve allowed the registry to win; because that’s what politicians wanted from the beginning: for registrants to be secluded and excluded.

    See, they know that by having a uniformed legal law as to what are exemptions and what is mandatory, it would be easier to file a lawsuit against them and the city. So, they have to be witty about it through a series of manipulation games to get what they want. That’s exactly what these “gray zones” are: it’s a wiseacre’s masked and neatly crafted subtle tactic to get registrants to get in trouble without said registrants being able to directly point it out in the letter of the law.

    And then, when said- registrants tell people about it, they (listening people) will simply think that the registrant violated sex offender registration and is simply making tired excuses.

    So, what should we do so that they don’t win? Answer: We now know what police will tell us. When it’s something that is in-your-face contradictory (mowing on the lawn within an exclusionary buffer zone), ask them to clarify if other law enforcement officials would say the same thing.

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