Dear Members and Advocates,
Inconsistency is the topic of this week’s update. Laws governing persons required to register as sex offenders are plagued with inconsistencies, which make complying with and enforcing them a challenge.
Take, for example, age of consent laws. In some states the age of consent is 16. In others it’s 18. According to NBC News, authorities are investigating singer Ryan Adams for exchanging sexually charged text messages with someone underage. But does “underage” go by Ohio (where the girl lives and the texts were received), by New York (where Ryan sent most of the texts from), or by Federal law since they used a “means of interstate commerce” to exchange the messages? That could provide inconsistent results. As the article points out, “the United States has nationalized a uniform draft age (18), voting age (18) and drinking age (21), but the age of consent for sex crimes remains an inconsistent patchwork among the states and the federal government.” What might label someone a sex offender for life in one state, can be perfectly legal in the next.
We’ve discussed the ridiculous results that can come from having inconsistent sex crime laws and registration requirements. In some states it can be legal to have consensual sex (literal intercourse) with someone who is 17, but if you send a sexual text message to the same person it’s illegal.
Inconsistency is an enforcement nightmare. We have hundreds (literally) of ordinances in Florida dictating where registrants can live or be present, some are 1000 feet, some 2500, some are in between. Some include school bus stops, some don’t. If children in one city are as precious and important as the children in another, the state should step in and preempt the patchwork of residency restrictions and enact one (if necessary, at all) that will be consistent and fair.
As was pointed out in the “In Person” challenge, when it comes to travel “Registrants in Glades, Gulf, Hamilton, Hernando, Highlands, Lafayette, Liberty, Manatee, Pinellas, St. Johns, and Sumter Counties cannot depart for travel of more than 2 days spontaneously (or for an emergency) on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday and cannot depart at all for a trip of more than two days on Sunday or Monday because their registration locations are closed Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.”
Consistency should apply to federal law also. SORNA mandates that all states have a registry – but then gives the States free reign to come up with their own rules. Some have tiers that expire, others are lifetime. Some put “level ones” on the internet, some don’t. The inconsistency results in some very disproportionate federally mandated requirements for the same crimes.
A few years ago, the Federal government passed International Megan’s Law which imposed restrictions on persons required to register. Some of those restrictions depend on whether someone “is currently required to register under the sex offender registration program of any jurisdiction”. The results are a bit absurd. Because some states have limited terms and some are lifetime – some can travel outside the US without interference, some can’t. And if you think you can just move out of Florida (a lifetime state) to a more rational state, Florida keeps people on their registry even after they leave the state (which is unlike other states that remove you when you leave).
The result of these inconsistencies is that you can take two people convicted of identical federal offenses, receiving identical sentences and they get treated substantially differently based on their State, County and City. Some will have restrictions on where they can live, others won’t. Some will be publicly listed online, some won’t. Some will be registered for 10 years, some lifetime. Some will be able to travel to certain countries and others won’t. (I use the example of a federal offense, because it’s not like the punishments for crimes among the states are disparate. Here it’s the same crime with the same sentence.)
If the United States has nationalized laws the application should be nationalized too. This is something that reform affiliates from across the United States should work together on and something we will be reaching out to our sister organizations to try and accomplish.
Another goal we are trying to accomplish this year is to bring more legal challenges and expand our outreach and advocacy efforts. Unfortunately, to accomplish these goals requires funds and as you can tell from the thermometers on our site; fundraising is not our forte. That might just be because we’ve never had a fundraising committee. It’s time we have one. If anyone has experience in fundraising (particularly for non-profits), we are looking to create a committee and could use your help. Please contact [email protected] if you can help with this effort.
The Florida Action Committee
March 7th “Coming Together to Better Support Families of Registrants”, Embassy Suites, Altamonte Springs, 7-9pm RSVP [email protected]
Next Membership Call – also on March 7th at 8pm – Topic: Update on Legal Challenges
SOME HEADLINES FROM THIS WEEK
This is an interesting piece from The Crime Report. The article highlights the homelessness problems caused by the Lauren Book Child Safety Ordinance in Miami-Dade County. It bans individuals convicted of certain sex crimes, including those involving minors, from…
In both the Ex Post Facto Plus challenge and the In Person challenge, the government had filed Motions to Dismiss. Responses have now been filed in each. On Friday, attorney Val Jonas filed notice of supplementary authority in the EPFP challenge, updating the Court on…
We have received reports from members in Polk County that they have been asked to fill out a form when registering. Information on the form ALLEGEDLY includes questions that are not required to be disclosed by State statute, such as; marital status and religion. These…
What do the following people have in common? An Air Force Colonel A prison guard A Christian school teacher They are all in positions where they are responsible for protecting people? Yes, but not what I was looking for. They all require specialized training and…