Today is the last day of 2023. It has been a year full of progress. And it has been a year full of challenges.
One form of progress in 2023 was a growing number of people whose petitions have been granted and are therefore no longer required to register in the state of California. This progress was due in large part to an appellate court decision, that shifted the burden of proof from the person required to register to the district attorney.
Specifically, the decision stated that a district attorney must prove that the person required to register poses a current danger, not that the person required to register must prove that he does not pose a current danger. When a district attorney cannot meet that burden of proof, then the court must grant the petition and the person is no longer required to register. The shifting of this burden of proof is immense and has muted district attorneys who once declared that the reason they objected to a petition was “because we can.”
Another sign of progress was a decision by ACSOL to file its first lawsuit outside the state of California. That lawsuit was filed in a federal district court in the state of Missouri challenging a law in that state that required all individuals required to register to post a sign on their home on Halloween.
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, an application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) was filed. The court granted the TRO and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to overturn the TRO after the Attorney General of Missouri filed an emergency motion to stop it.
Yet another sign of progress was a decision by the California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) to recommend several changes to the state legislature regarding the Tiered Registry Law. ACSOL requested those and other changes to that law in early 2023.
Challenges came in many forms. For example, it is still unknown to whom the new SORNA regulations apply. This uncertainty has caused and will continue to cause significant problems for individuals who may or may not be required to register more than once a year, may or may not be required to notify local law enforcement before they leave their home for seven days or longer or may or may not be required to provide a 21-day notice before traveling overseas.
Another form of challenge is uncertainty for individuals who are no longer required to register in one state and want to visit or move to another state. Are they required to register in the state they plan to visit or move to? The answer to that question is not obvious because the registration requirements in every state are different and could depend upon the conviction offense.
That is the look behind. Now let’s look ahead.
Tomorrow is the first day of 2024. Looking forward, there are things that we know and there are things that we don’t know.
One thing we know is that there will be one less member of the ACSOL board of directors due to the resignation of Chance Oberstein. Another thing that we know is that ACSOL will file a second lawsuit outside the state of California when it challenges a Halloween sign requirement in the state of Arkansas. We also know that ACSOL will conduct its annual Lobby Day in March to request changes to the Tiered Registry Law even though the legislature is unlikely to make those changes in a Presidential election year.
Despite the uncertainties before us in 2024, we know that we are resilient and can pivot when necessary while staying focused on our end goal – to end the registry for all. Please join ACSOL as we move forward to that goal by participating in Lobby Day, attending monthly Zoom meetings, joining Emotional Support group meetings and donating to ACSOL when you can.