The Steps of Sex Offender Registration:
Registration begins when a person has in his/her history, or is convicted (by any of the available pleas) of a triggering (listed) offense;
we have been informed that, in New Hampshire, registration is triggered by the age of the victim; but, this is very unusual.
item/s which, in some states, have fees or costs attached, which the offender must pay.
Exemptions From Registration Requirements:
Connecticut, has a process by which one can apply for an "Exemption from Registration" by filing a form and the court makes the decision.
Michigan (MCL 28.729) and Texas (Chap 62 62.0105) have procedures which allow certain juveniles to apply for an exemption from registry requirements, unless there is another crime committed.
California amended its sex offender registration law to exempt people convicted of certain now-defunct crimes -- mostly acts of consensual gay sex that were legalized in 1976 -- from being registered as sex offenders. See also their Application for exclusion from Internet Web Site
The following states have procedures which, after a period of time -and proof of rehabilitation, or other proof of no threat to public-, a sex offender can petititon to be relieved from the requirements of registration, or to have a "sexual predator designation" (if one exists) to be removed: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming. NOTE: This particular report (Statutes At-a-Glance) was compiled in 1999, be advised.
Each legislature sets forth a list of offenses which triggers the requirement to register. Initially listed offenses were only sex offenses, however, more recently these have been expanded to include other offenses such as kidnapping, prostitution, child pornography, murder of a minor, and others having nothing to do with sex per se (changing the "Object of the law" as first enacted, illegal in some states but someone needs to challenge it).
Triggering offenses are often expanded when prosecutors devise new ways to construe a set of facts to make it sound sexual; or when a "sexual motivation enhancement law" is available, they will use that.
In some states the newly included offenses have dates built in, that, a conviction before that date -for that specific offense- will not trigger registration (This raises a reverse ex post facto claim.)
Other states, instead of listing triggering offenses, simply say, any sex offense (excepting first degree type) before a certain date will not trigger registration.
The Initial Registration:
This section covers, the method or procedure followed to perform the initial registration, ignoring "who (the state official or agency)" is to perform the registration.
Generally an "initial registration form" completed and verified by the initiating jurisdiction (local police agency, county or state police, or court system, or state agency i.e. Corrections dep't), who then sends (mail, courier, etc.) this initial registration form to a central location, for further processing.
The initial registration form is usually confidential, because it contains the offender's personal information that is exempt from disclosure. As laws change over time, less and less, has been kept confidential, even the social security number is sometimes put on the Internet.
The central location stores the initial registration form, and extracts from that form any non-exempt information, to prepare the public disclosure portion of the sex offender registry.
If an offender has already been in jail or prison, usually that is where a DNA sample is taken. The sample is either a swab of the mouth or a blood sample. Then it is run through the state's DNA lab for recording in the permanent data bank of all DNA samples for later comparisons.
However, more recently, and only in some states, DNA samples are being taken each and every time an offender "renews" his/her registration, generally that is annually. Problematic is, some states are now charging from $50-100 dollars for processing the sample.
At some point some offender will take this to court and it is likely these fees will stop, as this is not a voluntary system but a forced system; and, for some the rest of their life, so costs can get to be quite high.
Risk assessment is a process states use to attempt to predict the "risk-of-reoffense" the offender poses to the community. The process arrives at a risk-level. i.e., 1-2-3-4 (low-medium-high).
Then, using that risk-level (determined by a risk assessment process [problematic is when a state uses 2 or more processes to arrive at a risk-level]), the level determines the extent of community notification needed for this offender.
States follow different procedures based upon the risk-level, from no community notification [excepting local police], to notifying day cares - schools - and the like, to actual posting of notices in newspaper, or in the community closest to where the offender lives or works.
Risk assessments, when used, are done when the offender is released from prison, put on probation, or moves into the community.
Frequently, states do not use risk assessments at all and declare all offenders "high-risk of reoffense, or, dangerous" without giving offender a chance to defend that assignment!
Publication means who is given access to the information submitted relating to the offender; this does not necessarily mean community notification. Once the initial registration form has been accepted, and transferred to the central location, then permissible dissemination of that information begins.
It is likely that, all information submitted would be available to law enforcement agencies for "Law Enforcement" purposes, not to include other types of public notifications. Law enforcement agencies have many other reasons that they use such information. I.e. when new crimes are committed they may check this data base for likely suspects, or do comparison DNA studies, etc.
Public Notifications: Initially, many states afforded registrants complete confidentiality from disclosure, later this was removed from their laws and without a hearing. Effectively states violated the "Doctrine of Laches."
In Connecticut one can submit an application to "Restrict Dissemination" of sex offender information. Based upon the facts of the case, the court makes that decision.
However, depending on a particular state's law, community notification of non-exempt information takes place by some combination of the following:
Paper Listing of offenders found at the local police agency. The listing would be just those offenders found within that agency's specific jurisdiction (geographically speaking).
TV In one area of Texas they are showing offenders pictures and information on their local cable channel.
Newspaper advertisements are sometimes placed to notify the community of usually high risk type offenders.
Posters posted within the community nearest where a specific offender is likely to be by virtue of living there, working there, attending school there, or volunteering in that area.
Door-to-Door canvassing of the closest homes to where the offender will live in the community, advising that community of the offender's presence.
Community Meetings in the community closest to where the offender will live in the community, advising that community of the offender's presence.
Schools are sending notices home with the children when the school learns of a sex offender within their school district. This is on top of any other notices by police, Internet, newspapers etc.. In the following case what the offender did was wrong, but, notice that the children didn't know about it, and the school used the children to send a note home to parents. Makes sense??
Signs on the offenders front lawn or the offender's car, this is a method which a judge in the south ordered all offenders who were on probation to do.
NOTES: Given every state has its own law, not every state uses every method shown. In states with risk assessment systems, disclosure is only for its higher risk offenders. Further, not every state has a state wide Internet listing of all of its offenders, one state -Washington- has county listings that are tied together by the state wide Sheriffs' Association. Some states do not have any Internet listing of its offenders.
While so far, this has not been declared unconstitutional, it also has not reached the U.S. Supreme Court where it is very likely to be declared unconstitutional.
The reason is, it is forcing the offender to post a government message (the signs), that is very different than the government posting a government message.
Notifying child care organizations and child care service providers by providing them with a CD or paper list of offenders within their local area.
Notifying institutions of higher learning by providing them with lists of offenders that are on their campus, either volunteering, working (part or full time), or working for an organization that provides services to the institution of higher learning.
Terminals at Local Police Stations: Terminals (Ca: Santa Rosa) listing offenders within jurisdiction of this authority, are being tested today. There is one jurisdiction which restricts use to only those who reside in the local jurisdiction, and backgrounds are run to verify (Chino Hills CA). Further, usually sex offenders are prohibited from using these.
Internet Web Site listings offenders and certain of their information. This has been highly criticized because of its far reaching scope (worldwide).
Personal Letters to Every Household & Business Within 1 Mile: In Lousiana this is a hotly contested requirement of THE OFFENDER who must bear all costs, including doing the mailings him/her self.
Private Alert Systems: This is a system GENERALLY NOT UNDER STATE CONTROL. Some police agencies, and private companies have established computerized systems to alert citizens when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood. How private companies are notified, is unknown and in question.
One police station in Florida sends an e-mail to folks who have previously requested to be notified when a sex offender moves into their community. Strangely enough, if you really think about how this works, this is the way Megan's law would work properly; by notifying only those who have a need to know (i.e., safety of a person at risk). At times there is a charge for this service.
The meaning of "Verification" under current laws is, a geographic verification of the offender's address (residence or domicile) or employment address (if it relates to an institution of higher learning).
This is a two step process:
the offender provides local law enforcement with his/her, address or working address or school of higher education, and then law enforcement follows up to verify that information.
Usually registry law requires the offender to personally appear at a local law enforcement agency with verifiable proof (generally more than one kind) of the offender's current residence; the offender is required to do this at some predetermined frequency every year (every 90 days, or annually).
A second method is, local law enforcement sends out a mailer to the most recent reported address of the offender and the offender must return the mailer within a certain period of time. This mail-in method was hotly contested in Mass. (when they used post-cards), but, their Supreme Court said it was constitutional (state switched to enclosed forms). See Mass. Mail-in Form
Some states go so far as to send a local law enforcement officer out to do a face-to-face verification of the reported information.
In the State of Washington, their State Parol (State Police), is permitted access to Post Office address change forms and information (the Postal Domestic Mail DMM Revision (manual of operations) makes no mention of this activity. Clearly this raises 4th Amendment -Search & Seizure- issues, especially given there is no probable cause) and checking those against their sex offender registry.
In New York State, effective 2003, "Even criminals have to pay -- ... or register for the state's sex offender registry, a $50 fee sex offenders will have to pay every time they move."
In Maine there is a $25.00 annual fee. §11226. Fee
Additional Steps Tied To Registration:
It appears that in the state of Texas, registered sex offenders -annually on their birthday-, must renew their driver's license. When they do this they are charged an annual fee of $35.00 and the license is only good for one year.
What makes this so egregious is, all other residents of Texas, only renew their driver's licenses, once every six years and pay $35.00 which means that sex offenders are charged $35.00 for a service when other folks pay only $5.83 for the same service.
OK, does anyone see the constitutional issues, yes plural; unequal protection under the law.
First, we see no logical reason to distinguish between sex offender drivers and all other drivers in the state of Texas.
Second, since the state chose to distinguish drivers based upon a crime type, what makes this crime type different from all other crime types, in the sense of, the cost of a drivers' license? No person convicted of any other crime type, has this requirement.
Finally, on the outside chance that, the state gathers information at the drivers license bureau and then transfers that to their sex offender registration bureau. If they are doing that, it is a criminal act. see Federal Motor Vehicle Code: Title 18 USC 2721 - which makes it a crime (especially for states) to release certain personal information gathered under a state's motor vehicle code (I.e. SS#, Driver's License#, and personal image. These being considered 'Personal Information Prohibited from Disclosure under Motor Vehicle Code').
Term of Registration:
This being the period of time an offender who is required to register, must follow the registration requirements, after which s/he has no duty under the state's sex offender registry laws.
In most states it is 10 years following release from prison, parole or probation, and sometimes the term is calculated from the end of parole or probation. At least one state has a requirement of 25 years for some of its registrants.
Several states have a lifetime registration requirement if certain conditions are met. I.e. a second offense following incarceration for a prior sex offense; or if 2 or more offenses were against a minor, with an intervening period between the first and later sex offense/s.
The term of registration has recently (2003) become an issue which, the West Virginia Supreme Court, is going to address.
The Costs of Registration:
With state budgets getting tighter and tighter, some states are beginning to charge offenders for being included in registries. See our new page tracking these costs! As these get higher and higher they will eventually reach a status of further punishment and be declared unconstitutional.
The hidden costs cannot be forgotten either, such as, going to a place to register or to verify an address. The costs being, transportation -car or bus-, time off from work (many places of registration are only open business hours, inconsistent with offenders who work odd shifts too), mailing costs for places that have mail-in address verifications, photographs when mandated, and we cannot forget that some of these steps must be done from one to four times a year.