August 7, 2008

Sex offender news roundup

Florida sex offenders may possess porn

Florida sex offenders on probation can possess pornography so long as it does not relate to their ''particular deviant behavior pattern,'' the state's Supreme Court has ruled.

The case involved Donald Kasischke, a 61-year-old Miami man with a doctoral degree in gerontology. He was on probation following a year in prison in the sexual molestation of a 15-year-old boy. Probation officers had searched his home and found pornographic photos of young males having sex, but it could not be determined that any were underage.

The ruling involved a condition of Kasischke's release stating that:
"Unless otherwise indicated in the treatment plan provided by the sexual offender treatment program, a prohibition on viewing, accessing, owning or possessing any obscene, pornographic or sexually stimulating visual or auditory material, including telephone, electronic media, computer programs or computer services that are relevant to the offender's deviant behavior pattern.''
The Miami Herald story is here.

Part of national registry ruled unconstitutional

The law making it a federal crime for a sex offender to travel to another state and fail to re-register in that jurisdiction is unconstitional, a federal judge in Montana has ruled. The Montana Attorney General will now appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case involved 58-year-old Bernard Waybright, who was convicted of a misdemeanor sex crime in West Virginia. Waybright traveled to Montana several times without registering there, a violating of the federal Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act.

The complete ruling in US v. Waybright is here. The news report in the (Montana) Missoulian is here. Analysis and news roundup of the case is here.

Coming soon: Instant sex offender alerts

Want to find out when a sex offender moves into your neighborhood. In Washington, a new system will allow you to get instant "real-time updates" and email alerts. Whoopee!

(Too bad that 90 percent of people arrested for sex offenses do not have a prior record. But these laws presumably make people feel safer.)

It's all part of the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) program, established by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. SMART has just issued its final guidelines for implementation, available online here.

Under the new guidelines, all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam, are required to establish online sex offender databases that are easily searchable by name, zip code, and geographical radius. All states and U.S. territories must also participate in a similar one-stop-shopping federal database, the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW).

Jurisdictions are also "permitted and encouraged" to provide public access to sex offenders' email addresses, by allowing members of the public to query whether a specific email address belongs to a sex offender.

All adult sex offenders and some juveniles as young as 14 are included in the national and state databases. (See this fact sheet for more information on juvenile registration requirements.) Registration is for life for offenders designed as “Tier III,” and for minimum periods of 15 to 25 years for Tier I and II offenders, respectively.

The FBI, which maintains the National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) database, may freely share registrants' information with "other appropriate databases."

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