Archive for June, 2016

Sex offender registry free-for-all

Monday, June 13th, 2016

This post involves the mechanisms of enforcement of the sex offender registration (SOR) list. Please don’t get wrapped up in the emotion of the topic. This post addresses government run amuck and the SOR is a good example.

Client was completely compliant for years and then the new Tier system went into effect. The new law required MSP to notify all registrants of their obligations. Client went from 4 updates per year to two updates per year. The update time frames also changed from the same day each quarter to his birth month and six months later each year. He claimed that MSP’s letter said he went to annual instead of bi-annual. A few weeks after his “six month” report was not filed, the local sheriff’s office decided to prosecute him. They apparently never even checked with MSP except to look him up on the computer. Normally, these prosecutions are presented with the proper proof from MSP showing notice of the reporting obligation. Not in this case. So he is charged criminally. The defendant, of course, could not find his letter because he had moved. We asked the prosecutor to produce it but the sheriff’s office said they never requested it. We did a Freedom of Information Act request to MSP for either his specific letter or a generic letter that was used when the law changed. Mind you, the amendatory act required MSP to send notice of the new obligations to each registrant. They could not or would not produce either the letter or proof they sent it to him. Once MSP confirmed this to the prosecutor’s office, case dismissed.

Lessons from this: (1) When the legislature passes this type of law, they rarely specify the method of investigation or enforcement. It is puzzling as to why the legislature would put the burden on MSP to send the notifications and maintain the database but then allow any law enforcement agency to “investigate” an alleged failure to report. Many of these investigations are self-initiated by law enforcement because they just search the database for registrants in their area and then check to see who is out of compliance. No report, no complaint, no other basis to initiate an investigation. Just trolling so they can create arrests. All of us should insist that the legislature create clear, fair, and accountable investigation and enforcement methods when they pass new laws.
(2) No matter what government agency or individual you deal with, keep EVERYTHING and keep it handy. If you deal with them in person or on the phone, keep a log and promptly document the substance of the conversation, the time, date and location, and the government actor’s identity. Unless you have a lawyer that will push back when trouble comes, you may find yourself with another conviction and loss of your liberty.

J. Nicholas "Nick" Bostic
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