Source: postandcourier.com 4/29/22
Even though it’s supposed to be independent and uninfluenced by the political branches of government, the S.C. Supreme Court still manages to be a good team player. Too bad the Legislature isn’t.
Nearly a year ago, as The Post and Courier’s Seanna Adcox reminds us, the high court ruled unanimously that South Carolina’s toughest-in-the-nation sex offender registry is unconstitutional, because it gives an unappealable lifetime sentence to people most of us wouldn’t think of as dangerous sex offenders.
Think 15-year-old boys who had consensual sex with their 15-year-old girlfriends, or frat boys who urinate in public. Not behavior we want to encourage, to be sure, but also not behavior that should follow them around for the rest of their lives.
Granted, the sentence isn’t terribly onerous: Those placed on the state’s sex offender registry (and there’s a way for people convicted of indecent exposure and underage sex to get around it, if they get the right judge) have to go to their local sheriff’s office twice a year to check in, and their names are listed on an online sex offenders’ registry, along with their address, convictions, vehicle and photo.
But it’s still something they have to keep doing decades after they’ve served their time in prison. This makes them different from other criminals, who are able to leave their convictions behind them after they’ve served their complete sentences. Even the provision in the state constitution that bars people from holding office if they have been convicted of violating election and ethics laws expires 15 years after they complete their sentences.
It’s also at odds with the goal that our Legislature and others had for passing so-called Megan’s Laws in 1994, in response to national outcry over the sexual assault and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka of New Jersey by a neighbor who had a record of sex crimes against children. As the court noted, “the lifetime inclusion of individuals who have a low risk of re-offending renders the registry over-inclusive and dilutes its utility by creating an ever-growing list of registrants that is less effective at protecting the public and meeting the needs of law enforcement.”
The court didn’t say the state can’t sentence all sex offenders to a lifetime on the registry; it simply said they had to be given a way to appeal that part of their sentence at some point. Think of it as a parole hearing, of the sort that we give most felons behind bars.
The court even said — and this is where the team player part comes in — that the Legislature had a year to fix the law to accommodate this. That was partly a matter of self-preservation, because otherwise, the courts could have been flooded immediately with petitions from the 17,000 people currently listed on South Carolina’s sex offender registry. But it was also consistent with the court’s longtime practice of giving the Legislature time to make the sort of tailored changes to state law that a court can’t make.
And the Legislature did nothing. For nearly 11 months, and counting. Three lawmakers introduced bills to create an appeals process, although that wasn’t until late February — eight months after the court order. The House bill is still sitting in committee, where it appears not to have gotten any attention. The Senate bill was assigned to a subcommittee last month, but members of the Senate Judiciary Committee haven’t yet worked out a path forward.
Senators did vote last week to advance a House-passed bill on a related topic that they should be able to use as a vehicle for an eventual plan, but only six days remain in the regular session. That’s enough to pass a bill if everybody agrees to it. But then, so is more than 10 months, and we’re still waiting.
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South Carolina registrants and supporters, here is where you show up, stand up, and speak up to fight for your future! Read the bill, decide what you want changed, and start calling and writing! No one else will do it for you.
Another state legislature ignoring a court order to modify sex offender registration laws to make them slightly less punitive so as to be constitutional.
This is the same disposition as the state of MI. NOW we see why the Byrne Grant folks used coercion to rush the promulgation of proprietary systems. And why it was inherently necessary early on to get certain timely bills through Congress & SCOTUS to lawfully condone unfettered application all while the press managed the conversation around terms like “net neutrality.” One of our rockets Governors literally stated “We are putting a net around…..offenders.”
Delayed justice is injustice.
The overall key is doing nothing that falls within the ambit of the Law!
I was convicted in SC in the fall of 2000. I was released from probation in 2005 and moved to VA in 2006. I was required to notify SC of my move to VA of course and my status on the SC registry (Lifetime) was updated to reflect my VA address. When I moved from VA to NC in 2007 I was only required to notify VA of my move to NC. I was under no obligation to notify SC of the move.
If you have followed me so far, good job. SC had me listed on the SC SOR for another 11 years with my old VA address. In 2018 I petitioned to be removed from the NC registry and my petition was granted. So, I am under no obligation to register in NC and yet in SC I am listed on the SOR with a VA address. What’s more baffling is that part of the petition for removal in NC required I notify the SC Sheriffs office of my petition. They obviously have my new address. But that address was never updated on the SC SOR.
So how does my name with an incorrect address, in a state in which I don’t reside, on a public SOR, serve to protect the people of SC. For that matter what would a correct address on the SC SOR do to protect the public in SC. My NC petition clearly states that NC no longer considers me a danger to the public. But SC with no, and even more importantly incorrect information still does after 22 years.
Obviously it has nothing to do with protecting the public. I would wager good money if a new law was passed allowing me to petition in SC to be removed it would not be granted. And probably my address on the SOR would remain my 15 year old incorrect VA address.