CAL. PEN. CODE § 647: California Code - Section 647.6
Subdivision (2) of the California misdemeanor sex offence law against children punishes people for their thoughts, with no victim at all!
(2) Every person who, motivated by an unnatural or
abnormal sexual interest in children, engages in
conduct with an adult whom he or she believes
to be a child under 18 years of age, which
conduct, if directed toward a child under 18 years
of age, would be a violation of this section, shall
be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand
dollars ($5,000), by imprisonment in a county jail
for up to one year, or by both that fine and
In California it's a crime for a sex offender to just simply enter the California Sex offender website.
"Any person who is required to register pursuant
to Penal Code section 290 who enters this web site
is punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000,
imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six
months, or by both the fine and imprisonment. (Pen.
Code, § 290.46, subd. (h)(2).)"
The reason given is the legislature fears that sex offenders may network to find victims. So, what if a sex offender would like to protect his own family from sexual predators? What if a sex offender would like to see if his information is correct? What if a misdemeanor offender would like to petition his information be removed (which is allowed in California), but must commit a crime just to see if he is listed in the first place. This is just crazy. Are our legislatures smoking something? Instead, they should make it a crime for anyone, not just sex offenders, to contact anyone in the database.
Are Sex Offender Laws Protecting Our Children?
March 6, 2006
With the recent fear surrounding sex offenders, there has been a boom in the amount of legislation concerning sentences, registration requirements, and living restrictions for offenders.
When Level 2 or 3 sex offenders move to Cuero, TX, they will now be required to post a sign outside of their residence which reads "A Registered Sex Offender Lives Here." Counties all over Iowa have enacted bills that restrict convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools and day care centers.
Such bills pose the question of whether or not some of these bills are really protecting children. Rebecca Baas, a volunteer with the Rape Crisis Center, argues that identifying sex offenders with a sign may only serve to make the offenders "feel powerless and isolated." She states that these feelings lead to excess aggression, which will vent itself in the form of another crime.
Research done by the Iowa County Attorney‘s association show that there is no connection between where a sex offender lives and where he or she commits a crime. Iowa Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals says that not only do the laws create a false sense of security, but they are difficult and expensive to enforce. He reminds citizens that there is no easy fix to the sex offender problem and states that the most effective way to protect children is to keep informed and remain aware of what is happening around you and your children.
Slashdot we have an article about
Ohio's new pre-crime registry. When I first read
the Slashdot headline, I had in my head a picture of
Tom Cruise running from teeny little
walking eye robots, but, luckily, it isn't quite
that bad. It doesn't involve Tom Cruise
precognition. But it is pretty bad. What we have
here is a "civil registry" that tracks people
accused of sex offenses under Ohio's
Megan's Law. Read that again. It tracks people
sex offenses. Not convicted, merely accused.
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with Megan's Law, and unwilling to check that last hyperlink, it is Ohio's state registry for sex offenders. Once an offender has done his (or her) time, he enters the system with his picture and offense record publicly available on a website. When he moves into a neighborhood, the neighbors are notified by the government of his status as a sex offender. He is barred from obtaining any job that requires licensure. He is prohibited from living in certain places, and anytime he moves, he must alert the state government. There's more to it.
Ohio's new "civil registry" would put an accused sex offender under these same restrictions of liberty, whether or not the case ever comes to trial and, as far as I can tell, even if he (or she) is acquitted. From the article:
A recently enacted law allows county prosecutors, the state attorney general, or, as a last resort, alleged victims to ask judges to civilly declare someone to be a sex offender even when there has been no criminal verdict or successful lawsuit.How is this constitutional? This severely limits the accused's rights to privacy, mobility, and even to obtain a job merely because somebody says they are a child molestor? Even if a criminal trial is never held, these people are punished by the state for a crime they have not been shown to have committed. This is in flagrant violation of the fourth, fifth, and sixth amendment guarantees to property security and due process of law, specifically the clause in the fifth stating that no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Not only that, it's just plain disgusting and opens the door to all sorts of heinous actions by unscrupulous persons.
The rules spell out how the untried process would work. It would largely treat a person placed on the civil registry the same way a convicted sex offender is treated under Ohio's so-called Megan's Law.
Imagine if this had been passed during the recovered memories/Satanic ritual abuse scares of the late 80s and early 90s. So many lives were already ruined on spurious eyewitness testimony that nevertheless endured the full due process of the law. What if those accused could have been punished before the trial even started, and even if acquitted? How many more lives would have been ruined then?
I hate to throw around the phrase, I really do, but this creates nothing less than a witch hunt situation. I'd go so far as to say it creates more than a witch hunt situation. At least in Salem there was some way to avoid punishment, however absurd or unlikely. Here we have a situation where anybody accused can be punished immediately, without trial. All it takes is an accusation and some paperwork, and you're stuck on the registry. If found guilty, you're obviously punished more, but the legally innocent are left to be strangled under the wrenching grasp of Megan's Law.
Fuck Megan. Seriously.
I know it's not her fault. The poor girl was raped and murdered and some reactionaries are now using her name to justify heinous crimes against the innocent. I'm just really at a loss for words. I'm glad I don't live in Ohio anymore. A single word from someone that doesn't like me and boom, I'm stuck working at McDonalds, living in squalor with a sign in my yard identifying me as a sex offender even though I was never given a trial. It just doesn't seem fair, does it?
But never fear, nay-sayer, because there is light at the end of the illegally-punished sex offender tunnel. One can be removed from the list:
A civilly declared offender, however, could petition the court to have the person's name removed from the new list after six years if there have been no new problems and the judge believes the person is unlikely to abuse again.No big deal, buddy. So your neighbor's false accusation put you in the registry and relegated you to menial labor and a life of abject humiliation and constant surveillance. It's only for six years. In six years you can have your life back. If we say so.
Sex-offender residency laws get second look
Urinating in public is a sex offense in Oklahoma!
Housing restrictions are causing havoc: offenders are not registering and/or they must live far out in rural areas where they can't be monitored.
Have our state legislatures just lost their minds?
Yet Lamons wants to loosen his state's law that bans registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care center. He says it forces many offenders to live in rural areas where they are difficult for authorities to monitor. Also, he says, it does not differentiate between real predators and the type of men he recalls arresting for urinating in public, a sex offense in Oklahoma.
"We need to focus on people we're afraid of, not mad at," says Lamons, a Tulsa Democrat who wants the rules to focus more on high-risk offenders.
TABLE: State restrictions
Lamons is among a growing number of officials who want to ease the "not-in-my-backyard" policies that communities are using to try to control sex offenders. In the past decade, 27 states and hundreds of cities have reacted to public fear of sex crimes against children by passing residency restrictions that, in some cases, have the effect of barring sex offenders from large parts of cities. They can't live in most of downtown Tulsa, Atlanta or Des Moines, for example, because of overlapping exclusion zones around schools and day care centers.
Now a backlash is brewing. Several states, including Iowa, Oklahoma and Georgia, are considering changes in residency laws that have led some sex offenders to go underground. Such offenders either have not registered with local police as the laws require or they have given fake addresses. Many complain they cannot find a place to live legally.
The push to ease residency restrictions has support from victims' advocates, prosecutors and police who say they spend too much time investigating potential violations.
They're battling a mountain of momentum, however, because residency restrictions remain popular.
New or expanded ones have been proposed in 20 states this year. Some legislators are reluctant to pare back restrictions they passed only recently.
"We ought to give it time to work," says state Rep. Jerry Keen, author of Georgia's law, passed last year, which bans sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of where kids gather. Keen, Republican majority leader of the House, says Georgia's rules put children's safety before the convenience of sex offenders.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has a similar view. "We're trying to protect children," she says. "We're dealing with people raping children. These are horrible crimes." She says Illinois' restrictions target those who have seriously hurt children.
Others see growing problems with the residency laws.
Broad restrictions provide a "false sense of security," says Nancy Sabin of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, which fights child exploitation. She says such laws do not protect the more than 90% of abused children who suffer at the hands of people they know. And many of the laws bar offenders from living near schools but do not stop them from loitering there, she says.
Most of the restrictions also lump all sex offenders together, even though some are child rapists and others may be 18-year-old men who had sex with underage girlfriends. There is no national breakdown of sex offenders by severity of their crimes.
"You can't paint sex offenders with a broad brush," says John Walsh, host of Fox network's America's Most Wanted. He says residency laws are worthwhile only if they can be enforced, and tens of thousands of the nation's 600,000 sex offenders are giving police fake addresses.
Walsh prodded Congress to pass a law last year — named for his son Adam, who was abducted and killed 25 years ago — that makes failure to register a felony for serious sex offenders such as rapists and child molesters. Those are the people Walsh says residency rules should target.
Some state lawmakers are trying to move in that direction:
•Iowa —Legislators began holding hearings in January on the effectiveness of a 2002 law that bars sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care facility. Sen. Keith Kreiman, Democratic co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, says he expects the law to be revised but not repealed. "It is very politically risky to even hold hearings," he says, because lawmakers who change the rules could be called "soft on crime."
State figures show sexual-abuse convictions have remained steady since the law took effect, but the number of sex offenders failing to register has more than doubled. Sen. Jerry Behn, a Republican who wrote Iowa's law, says it may be overly broad. He says he's talking to colleagues about how to focus on "true predators."
•Oklahoma —Like Lamons, other legislators say they'll try to narrow their state's restrictions. "Let's apply them to those who are the highest risk to society," says state Rep. Gus Blackwell, the Republican majority whip.
Sgt. Gary Stansill, head of the Tulsa Police Department's sex-crimes unit, says the current law applies to too many offenders and that he spends "way, way too much of my time" trying to enforce it. He says he investigates as many cases of sex offenders not registering as he investigates rape reports. He considers less than 10% of the state's 8,000 convicted sex offenders to be high-risk and is lobbying lawmakers to focus on them.
•Georgia —Republican state Rep. Robert Mumford, vice chairman of a judiciary panel, says he plans to propose a bill to scale back the state's law. With the backing of the Georgia Sheriffs' Association, he suggests removing many bus stops and churches from the list of areas where offenders are banned.
•Kansas —On Feb. 12, the state Senate passed a bill that extends for another year Kansas' moratorium on local governments restricting where sex offenders can live.
Some cities have rejected such restrictions. Among them: Topeka; Maplewood, Minn.; and Covington, Ky.
Several offenders have challenged residency rules in court, claiming they unfairly punish offenders who have served their time. In December, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Valerie Armstrong rejected a local ordinance as too broad. She said it had several flaws. For example, she said, it violated U.S. law that says being on a sex offender registry cannot disqualify someone from housing.
Many of the state laws are known as "Jessica's Laws" because they were passed or expanded after the slaying in Florida of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in 2005. Her neighbor, convicted sex offender John Couey, is on trial for the crime.
The surge in residency restrictions happened in the absence of research proving that they work.
"Residency restrictions have a lot of unintended consequences," says Jill Levenson, professor of human services at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. She says many offenders are "more likely to resume a life of crime" if pushed into rural areas, because they have less access to jobs and mental health services that bring them needed stability.
Levenson surveyed 135 sex offenders in Florida, which passed a law in 2003 barring those who hurt children from living within 1,000 feet of where kids gather. Most said they had been careful not to commit crimes near their homes, so residency rules made little difference. Others said that even outside restricted areas, they live near kids.
Sex offenders seeking victims are likely to go to another neighborhood so they won't be recognized, the Minnesota Department of Corrections found in a 2003 study.
In Colorado, convicted molesters who committed more offenses lived no closer to schools or child care centers than those who had not re-offended, according to a report in 2004 by the state's Department of Public Safety.
In Arkansas, however, Jeffrey Walker of the University of Arkansas found in 2001 that child molesters are nearly twice as likely to live near schools than those convicted of sexually assaulting adults. Walker says he doesn't know why that's the case, or whether proximity to kids makes them more likely to offend again.
The need for housing for paroled sex offenders in Illinois is "close to crisis levels" because of residency restrictions, says Jorge Montes, chairman of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. He says it's in a Catch-22 situation, because without a place to live, a parolee cannot be released.
"We go into cyclical incarceration," he says, adding that more than 400 sex offenders are doing parole in prison because they have no place to go. He says many are not child predators.
Janet Allison, 45, a mother of five in Georgia, says she was forced to move from a four-bedroom home in downtown Dahlonega to a two-bedroom mobile home "way off on a dirt road" because she is a convicted sex offender and her former home was within a quarter-mile of a church.
Allison's situation also reflects how residency laws can affect those who aren't sexual predators. Allison says she was arrested five years ago for allowing the 17-year-old boyfriend of her pregnant daughter, then 15, to move in with them. She was convicted of being a party to child molestation.
Allison didn't go to prison, but three of her children were put in foster care, and she's not allowed to have contact with her daughter or grandson. "I didn't touch anyone," Allison says. "I just thought I was protecting my daughter."
Keen, author of Georgia's residency law, says it applies to all released sex offenders, regardless of their offense, because the state has not classified them by risk. He says those released in the future will be assessed, and the restrictions will target more serious offenders.
Dyersville, Iowa, is among the cities with the strictest residency laws for sex offenders: It bars them from living anywhere in the city.
Mayor Jim Heavens says the city did so to protect public safety and property values. "We consider this a crude tool, but at least we can do something. We're not trying to banish people," he says, adding that the city might make an exception for sex offenders who pose little risk to public safety.
Researchers who study sex offenders say that other approaches could be more effective in dealing with released sex offenders than broad residency laws:
• More checks by probation officers — David Finkelhor of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire says the best way to monitor offenders is to require frequent meetings with well-trained officers.
•Mandatory therapy — Kim English of Colorado's Division of Criminal Justice recommends having freed offenders attend therapy in group residential centers.
• Polygraphing — Levenson says lie-detector tests also can be helpful, along with electronic monitoring and required driving logs.
Illinois is inviting officials from other states to a conference in April to discuss the effects of residency restrictions.
"Somebody is going to end up with a huge problem," says Frances Breyne of the Kansas Department of Corrections, "unless we all get on the same page."