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Friday, September 16, 2011

Essay on Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law

Since 1947, the state of California has been requiring the registration of convicted sex offenders.  It is actually the first state to require the registration of convicted sex offenders with local law enforcement agencies (California Sex Offender Information: Megan’s Law”, 2002, p.3).  This registration has continued until today with minor changes being made such as the frequency of registration and the kind of information to be included in the registration.  These changes are brought about by the enactment of new laws, particularly the enactment of the State’s Megan’s Law in 1996.  The objective of this law is to provide the residents ofCaliforniaaccess to valuable information that will help protect them and their families from the threat of the convicted sex offenders.

I.  Procedural Guidelines
Under the state of California’s Megan’s Law, adult sex offenders and juvenile sex offenders who are convicted in juvenile court and sent to a state level incarcerating facility, as well as out-of-state residents who are required to register in their own state that come to California for work or school purposes are required to register as sex offenders.  Sex offenders are required to state the following information: address on all residences including transient locations and campus information.  Photos, fingerprints and palm prints will also be taken from him including vehicle information, driver’s license information, occupation, and employment data.  Other identifying information such as scars, marks, tattoos, including blood and saliva samples for DNA analysis will also be taken.

II. Updating of Information of Sex Offenders
Under the state of California’s Megan’s Law the registered sex offenders are required to update their information annually within five working days after their birthday (“Sex Offender Registration and Exclusion Information”, 2009, p.1).  On the other hand, some sex offenders are required to update more frequently than others such as those classified as sexually violent predators are required to register every 90 days and those who have no residence address are required to register every 60 days. California’s Sex Offender Tracking Program monitors when the update will happen.  In case a registered sex offender violates the law, then the Internet web site will show the sex offenders who violated this requirement.  In addition, sex offenders are required to update their information every time they change their address.  Proof of address at the time of registration must also be presented.

The requirement of registration and updating of registration is a lifetime requirement for both the juvenile and adult sex offender.  The only way for this requirement to be removed is for the adult sex offenders to file a petition for a Certificate of Rehabilitation or to get a full Governor’s Pardon.  For juvenile sex offenders, the juveniles adjudicated in juvenile courts may file a petition for the purpose of having their record sealed.

III. Penalties for non-compliance
Under Section 290 of the Penal Code, it is considered a felony for a sex offender to refuse to comply with the registration requirements. 

IV. Constitutional Challenges
In view of the severity of the punishment for sex offenders, the state laws requiring registration of sex offenders and the publication of the list in the Internet have been opposed by many sex offenders.  It has in fact been the subject of many court decisions.  One of the arguments raised by sex offenders is that the registration requirement constitutes a violation of their privacy rights.  Sex offenders too have privacy rights.  They too are entitled to protection by the state.  They too are entitled to the protection of their human rights.  Thus, while there is no specific provision in the constitution that protects the right to privacy sex offenders have argued that this right is protected under the Due Process Clause. 

In recent cases, sex offenders have relied on the prohibition against ex post facto law to challenge the posting of the names of sex offenders in the Internet.  An ex post facto law is a law that seeks to change the punishment by inflicting greater punishment than the law attached to the crime at the time it was committed.  In one case the sex offenders argued that notification laws which require the posting of the name of sex offenders in the Internet violate the prohibition on ex post facto law since the punishment is made to apply to convicted sex offenders who wee convicted before the law was enacted.  For them, notification laws serve as additional punishment which was not required by existing laws at the time of the conviction.

 It is worth stressing, however, that in 2000 a federal appellate court ruled thatUtah’s sex offender registration law which requires the publication of information on the Internet was constitutional since the requirement was not a punishment.  Several other cases have similar conclusion. 

 V. Own Opinion on Sex Offender Registration Laws
In my opinion, I think that the sex offender registration laws have gone too far.  I am in favor of protecting the society against sexual predators.  I am also in favor of cleaning the society of the convicted sexual offenders.  But I do not think that this is the constitutional and humanitarian response.  It is true that the Supreme Court and the lower courts do not still consider these laws as unconstitutional.  But I do hope that time will come that the Supreme Court will realize its mistake and reverse its position on this issue (“High court to reconsider sex offender registration”, 1999, p.1).

VI.  Constitutionality of Sex Offender Registration
I think sex offender registration and publication laws are unconstitutional.  No person should be punished with a penalty that was not imposed for a crime that he committed.  The government cannot just pass laws and say that this penalty is applicable even to all persons who have been convicted of a crime thirty (30) or forty (40) years ago.  That is not fair.  That is unconstitutional.

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