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July 27, 2005

Latest sex offender idea: five-year minimum federal sentence for failing to register

As detailed in this earlier post, a federal bill entitled the Children's Safety Act of 2005 (HR 3132; available here), a package of previously separate bills aimed at cracking down on sex offenders, was slated to receive consideration by the full House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.  This press release from the Committee provides the details on the Committee's approval of the bill by a vote of 22-4 today, and this AP report indicates that highly debated "was a provision that calls for a minimum five-year prison sentence for convicted sex offenders who fail to register with authorities."  Here are some highlights from the AP article:

Democrats called that provision too harsh, noting it could apply to a person convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense. "Failing to register should not have a minimum sentence," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. "A judge can make that determination." Under the provision, Nadler said, a person could serve more time in prison for failing to report than for the actual crime committed. "That doesn't make any sense at all," he said.

But Rep. Mark Green, a Wisconsin Republican who is running for governor, said failing to register undermines a key weapon against sex offenders — knowledge of where they're residing. The bill includes Green legislation to add juvenile sex offenders to state registration lists.  "It is, in my view, a very serious offense," he said of failing to register.  And he defended taking the decision away from judges.  "We're here because unfortunately judges have failed us in some of these cases," Green said.

The committee defeated [an] amendment by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., to eliminate the minimum sentences for failing to register, 17-16.... John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the committee [said]: "We need to move past the emotional side of this issue," [and he called the] new mandatory minimum sentences "over the top.... We need to invest in solutions of a preventive nature."

July 27, 2005 at 06:33 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Someone explain to me why the federal government is regulating sex offenders again? Admittedly, I haven't read the entire law, but I'm curious--can someone who is convicted of a sex offense in one state and remains in that state, but fails to register, be charged federally with failure to register? If so, exactly where is the federal interest?

Posted by: txpublicdefender | Jul 28, 2005 9:44:02 AM

TX is right. Even after Raich, this is still the type of noneconomic conduct that Congress can't reach.

Then again, after Sabri, the government might make this argument: The law, duly enacted under the Spending Clause, requires states to keep databases. Requiring individuals to register is thus necessary and proper to ensure the efficacy of the registration program, since a database without names would be worthless. Re-read Sabri: Insert "registry" for "federal funds" or "federal programs" and you'll see that I'm being neither cute nor clever.

Posted by: Mike | Jul 28, 2005 3:07:14 PM

Lets get back to the basics so we understand WHY all this is happening.....


Pros:

Sex offenders, even more so than other forms of crime, are prone to
re-offending upon release from prison. Therefore, to protect society,
they should be required to register with a local police station, and
their names and addresses should be made available to the public. Police
would also supply this information to relevant parties, such as schools
and nurseries, who will be consequently far more alert to any risk.
Parents would find this information invaluable in ensuring their
children’s safety, and it would cut the rate of sexual crime by those
freed from prison. In the end, we have to protect our children at any
cost.


Cons:
This proposal is a fundamental violation of the principles of our
penal system, which are based on the serving of a set punishment
before being freed. This registration imposes a new punishment for an
old crime, and, inevitably, will lead to sex offenders being
demonised by their neighbours, and possible forced to move out. In
the UK the publication of addresses by the ‘News of the World’ led to
widespread hate campaigns and violence, sometimes against innocent
people with similar names, or people living in a house listed in the
newspaper as that of a sex offender. Such a risk cannot be tolerated;
we cannot as a society revert back to mob rule in place of justice.

Pros:

Crimes of a sexual nature are among the most abhorrent and damaging
that exist; they can ruin a child’s life. As the offenders responsible
for these offences cannot be incarcerated for ever, and must be
released at some point, extra precautions must be taken to ensure they
pose no threat to the public.
The proposition are muddying the waters. Psychological evaluations
can determine accurately whether an offender is still a risk to
society or not. If they are, they should not be released. If they are
not, they should be freed and allowed to live a normal life. A
register eliminates this distinction, and stigmatises those who have
genuinely reformed. We have a penal system at the heart of which is
the principle of reforming offenders, and it is ludicrous to simply
ignore the possibility of change.

Cons:

A national register would allow police to track down re-offenders
faster, thus increasing the success rate and the speed at which they
are brought to justice. It would also provide a strong deterrent
against re-offence in its own right.
Police work can be aided by a register that is only available to law
enforcement agencies; making it public adds no advantage. Indeed, it
might be counter-productive as the abuse that offenders would have to
suffer might drive them underground, thus causing the police to lose
track of them.

Pros:

A national register would benefit sexual offenders directly, as they
would be on local registers of counselling and psychological help
groups, who would be more able to offer help.

Cons:

This is spurious; offenders should have access to these services
anyway, regardless of whether their names are available to the
general public or not.

Posted by: Erich r | Aug 7, 2005 6:13:22 PM

i wanna study in LAW faculty in d period of FIVE YEARS after XIIth standard. what r its need 4 qualification. any entrance xams should b given or! or after Graduation should b done. suggest me!

Posted by: RUPJYOTI | Aug 10, 2005 3:43:09 AM

Starting to sound more and more like the Ex Post Facto clause of the constitution is dead. The (according to the Iowa Dept of Corrections) recidivism rate for felons is 80%. For sex offenders about about 20%. For sex offenders who have completed a intense treatment program 3.14%. Percentage of the general population who commit a sex offence in their life time about 6%.

The numbers don't support that sex offenders reoffend at a high rate, the media hype sure does,it did in Salem at one time too, get the numbers next time. (I'm an Engineer, IT professional)

Posted by: Royce | Sep 15, 2005 6:47:50 AM

I found out about this bill yesterday, Wednesday 21st. I am supposed to be married to my fiance, technically serving probationary time for a sexual misconduct felony, this Sunday. I don't know what to do. He was five years down, two to go, then it was supposed to be all over and done with. I don't know how I'm supposed to live with my address being nationally known for the rest of my life. What if we had children? Would I ever be allowed to leave them in the room with him? When a person is on probation, they get told what they can and can't do. This is nebulous. The law states you must register everytime you move, and must update it at least every six months, with a "babysitting" visit at least every month. When you're on probation you pay a fee, and as yet, no one has addressed the monetary side of this. Is there going to be a fee for lifetime registration? Am I going to have to put this is the budget right next to gas and groceries? I feel like I'm the one being punished here.

Posted by: Jennifer | Sep 22, 2005 1:17:29 AM

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Posted by: | Oct 14, 2008 9:11:43 PM

Jennifer, the best bet for you is if you want a easier life....leave him. I'm not one of the types to just say kill the sex offender, all though I don't think much of the person either. He probably has changed into a better person, but you can't ever have him with the kids alone. For one, you are in jepordy of losing your kids and possibly going to prison yourself for being a accomplise of a sex offender and that will make you a sex offender. Another is if anything, and I mean anything ever happens to the kids or anybodies kids that lives close by or even on the block or two...your soon to be husband is the primary suspect regardless if the evidence isn't pointed to him and the law will look at you and your character. Even a little arguement breakout and he could be sent back to the big house and you would be stranded. Oh, an the most difficult part of all is people does have access to your address.....yeah, others who are ready to take the law into their own hands even after they have served their time because they felt they were robbed by his presence or the feel they need to protect what they value. A mob of people is what I would be afraid of, and they feel entitled to bring harm to a convicted sex offender and you and your future kids can be hurt as well. Let's don't forget ex-cons have access to the registry and maybe they might use this to locate a fellow inmate and use it as a tool to do harm to him and your family. Be smart, think clearly if this is the life you want....something like this will more likely happen and the Police is less likely to help that much because for the fact that they have opinions as well and they will react to them.

Posted by: DMO | Oct 15, 2008 9:04:42 PM

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