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September 18, 2010

Massachusetts SJC splits over when GPS tracking can be added to sex offender sentence

As detailed in this local article, which is headlined "GPS tracking limited by SJC: Rules in case of sex offender; Sets conditions for probation use," a split high court in Massachusetts concluded yesterday that state judges "cannot change probation conditions for convicted sex offenders by requiring them to wear GPS monitoring devices unless the former inmates have violated the terms of their release." Here are the particulars:

In a 4-to-3 decision, the Supreme Judicial Court upheld a lower court judge who refused to add GPS monitoring and a ban on visits to playgrounds, schools, and libraries to the probation restrictions of a former Lowell man who spent about 20 years locked up for the abduction and rape of a 7-year-old boy.

Prosecutors and lawyers for the man agreed that he had not violated any conditions of probation when the judge rejected the request by the state Probation Department in August 2009. “Here, the judge correctly found that there had been no material change in the defendant’s circumstances after the terms of probation were initially imposed that would justify the proposed additional probation condition of GPS monitoring and exclusion zones," Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote for the majority.

As the case was winding its way through the courts, the convicted sex offender, Ralph W. Goodwin, violated the terms of his probation on June 30 by failing to attend a day program as part of his mental health treatment plan, according to his appellate lawyer, Jeannine E. Mercure of Lowell. As a result, another judge ordered Goodwin to wear a GPS device, although she did not restrict where he can go.

Nonetheless, yesterday’s ruling sets limits on when judges can require GPS monitoring for freed sex offenders who were convicted years before the devices became a common condition of probation imposed at sentencing. The Probation Department currently monitors 730 freed sex offenders with GPS, according to Coria A. Holland, a department spokeswoman.

Yesterday’s ruling complements a 4-to-3 decision the high court issued in August 2009. In that case, the SJC held that a 2006 state law requiring convicted sex offenders to wear GPS devices while on probation could not automatically be applied retroactively to defendants convicted before the statute went into effect. The majority said the devices create an unconstitutional burden on the individuals’ freedom....

In a one-paragraph dissent yesterday, [Justice] Ireland wrote that he continues to believe that requiring people on probation to wear the device is “remedial rather than punitive" and should be allowed.

The court’s ruling drew criticism from law enforcement officials and victims’ rights advocates but praise from defense lawyers.

The full ruling in Massachusetts v. Goodwin is available at this link.

September 18, 2010 at 02:20 PM | Permalink

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Comments

hmm

"violated the terms of his probation on June 30 by failing to attend a day program as part of his mental health treatment plan"

been on probation at least 2 years going by the time line and suddenly as soon as a judge sayd BECASUE he's never violated his porbation so you can't change it...SUDDENLY HE'S VIOLATED! sounds very very very friggin fishie to me!

Posted by: rodsmith | Sep 19, 2010 2:54:34 AM

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