The vast majority of people can agree, that sex offense registries don’t work, are not based on any sort of scientific data and cast a very wide net. Perhaps, society should keep track of certain individuals if it truly feels the individual poses a risk to society. It isn’t clear why sex offenses are singled out, but it is clear that there are far too many “offenders” caught by this net. This is so because a prosecutor or a judge will often opt to cover himself, than allow someone who has committed a sex crime to be removed from the registry. In California, registrants under penal code section 290 are overcrowding short staffed probation departments. That is, the very idea that certain offenders need monitoring is hampered by the number of individuals the system is to monitor.
Here are some examples of offenses that require registration from our own practice. For the sake of argument, we can start with a more serious allegation:
CA Penal code 288 – Lewd act on child under 14. Our client was a janitor who gently touched the hand of a 12 year old girl. Another was a 19 year old blind man who was in a dating relationship with another blind 14 year old. There is no advantage of having either of these individuals register. A forensic doctor who evaluated them concluded that they pose little risk of re-offending.
Some more examples include conduct as benign as tapping the buttocks of a woman in a concert and kissing a stranger in a drunken state. (sexual battery in violation of penal code 243.4). The fact that the law even contemplates this sort of conduct requires a life time penalty is absurd. Some prosecutors would insist that this outcome is draconian.
After a conversation with the supervising District Attorney at a local bay area jurisdiction, I realize that this culture of fear has made us all insane, untrusting of others and the system in general. Truth is, there are not more sexual deviants than in past years. Let your kids out of the house. Don’t fear your neighbors. This is not the America we know.
Still, the federal government appears ready to add insult to injury by legislating an International sex offender registry. This law calls for markings on the passports of those convicted of certain offenses. Presumably, they will have a hard time traveling outside of the united states even as they have a hard time finding a place to live inside the country.
At some point, this entire legal doctrine is revealed as a scheme to sow fear and a sense of insecurity. Perhaps someone wants to offer a new legislation that sex offenders must have tattoos on their arms. As things go, I can’t imagine there will be many to oppose such a law.