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March 28, 2008

A poster child for the problem of residency restrictions

MomThanks to this post at the blog Iowa Champion, I saw this MSNBC article about a woman suffereing as the result of broad sex offenders residency restrictions.  Here are some details:

Jennifer Lower was convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense in Ohio seven years ago. After moving to Iowa, and then moving her family to a town with no schools or day cares -- which she can't live near under Iowa law -- she's learned that she is still in violation of the law.

From the Cass County Jail, Lower, 29, said she's frustrated.  Lower is a married mother of three.  She already moved her family to try to comply with Iowa's sex-offender residency law that bans sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care.  She said she can't find a home that complies.  "It's not fair. My rights are basically gone, it seems like," Lower said.

Forced out of Atlantic, Lower and her family moved 5 miles west to Marne, Iowa. There are no schools or day cares in Marne, so Lower said she thought she and her family were safe.  Then Marne passed a new ordinance, making it illegal for sex offenders to live within 2,000 feet of a park or school bus stop. Lowers' home was a couple blocks from the park and less than a block from a bus stop, so once again, a court ordered Lower to move.

She refused and a judge put her back in jail.  "My landlord don't even think I'm a threat," Lower said.  This time, she's lost her children, who are now in foster care.  "The only thing I need to get my kids back is have a stable home," Lower said.

Cass County Attorney Daniel Feistner said Lower's sex crime was a misdemeanor and she may not be much of a threat to the community, but he said he has to enforce the law consistently.  "Unfortunately, as a prosecutor, I don't have the luxury of looking at her individually and say I can apply the law to her or not to her and to someone else," Feistner said.

Especially if Lower's 2001 Ohio misdemeanor sex offense was really minor, her story could readily get new people sympathetic to the plight of relatively minor sex offenders being subject to relatively broad residency restrictions.

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March 28, 2008 at 02:28 AM | Permalink


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"Unfortunately, as a prosecutor, I don't have the luxury of looking at her individually and say I can apply the law to her or not to her and to someone else," Feistner said.

That is simply ridiculous. Such decisions are, in fact, the essence of his job as a prosecutor. "Prosecutorial discretion" is a major part of his job.

What a buck-passing goon.

Posted by: Reader | Mar 28, 2008 9:10:46 AM

I think that's a little unfair. A prosecutor has to react to an ongoing violation.

Perhaps this woman will get clemency in Ohio. Some of these residency restrictions are really out-of-hand. And besides the torment they inflict on people who have put a relatively minor transgression behind them, they waste resources and unnecessarily rob society of the productivity of these people. We don't know what Ms. Lower did, however.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 28, 2008 2:37:11 PM

My questions is not specifically on residency restriction but it is somewhat related. All three elements need not exist to claim double jeopardy at the same time to argue that double jeopardy is being applied, for where the matter of concern is not about prosecution but about continued punishment of a person or of individuals for a crime or offense already served, or of multiple offenses where punishment has already been served, to arbitrarily and capriciously assign additional punishment for the same offense or offenses months, years, and decades after the fact is a valid argument that double jeopardy exists. Referene: Adam Walsh Act.

I am curious how those of you with legal backgrounds and experience with double jeopardy can answer this in light of the retrospective elements in the AWA that are affecting such person's as this Ohio woman and others.

Posted by: Bennie Walton | Mar 30, 2008 3:03:27 AM

Schools - the stats have a solid interest in protecting children while they are attending school. It is basically mandatory for children to attend school and since the state has the responsibility to protect children at school buffer zones around schools only increase the states ability to protect the children. I agree with this part of the residency restrictions.

Also schools are a place were parents are not allowed to accompany their children.

Day Cares - are private businesses that are tailored to take responsibility/watch over children while their parents are at work. Security for the children are the responsibility of the business and the state bares no responsibility for those children. If a day care operates in a bad part of town do we knock down all undesirable places around the daycare so the daycare can operate more safely? Locations daycares operate in are solely the responsibility of the daycare provider.

School bus stops - bus service to and from school are a courtesy by the school distract. Children are not required to use the bus stops and up until now the safety of the children at the bus stops was solely the parents responsibility unless that particular school districts decided to extend school protection to bus stops but normally thats purely optional.

Parks / Swimming pools - pretty much the same as bus stops. Courtesy of the local governments. Up until now its the responsibility of the parents to provide security and watch over their own children. No one is required to go these places and often no form of security exists there for any other reason. Why suddenly does the stats feel the need to protect parks from sex offenders when they don't make much of an effort to protect parks from anything else?

Any other area children gather - always troubled me when i read this language in any of these laws. Basically it allows the local authorities to put buffer zones around basically anything they want. We do not have speed limit signs that say "55 m.p.h zone (or any speed the local sheriff thinks thats safe)" for a reason. There isn't laws on the book that say 'You can't do A, B, C, D, and E (E being a blank line were the local authorities can 'fill in the blank' anytime they want) so technically how are they getting away with this?

Even I don't think the overall idea of residency restrictions are unconstitutional. Though can it be argued (with merit) that the government have overstepped their authority on what places they can put buffer zones around?

Posted by: Mark | Mar 31, 2008 5:30:40 AM

Any reason the article doesn't say what the misdemeanor sex offense was?

Posted by: | Mar 31, 2008 5:28:53 PM


Posted by: maritza | Apr 22, 2008 8:08:27 AM

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