Supreme Court Decision on Missouri Sex Offender Carries Implications Across U.S.

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​A sex case that began in Missouri and passed through Pennsylvania continued its path all the way to Washington, where this week U.S. Supreme Court released an opinion that poses just as many questions as answers when it comes to sex-offender registration laws.

In a 7-2 ruling announced January 23, the justices declared that sex offenders who who registered as such prior to the 2006 signing of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act need not re-register as sex offenders if they move across state lines, reversing a previous ruling by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case originated with Missouri native Billy Joe Reynolds, who was convicted of a sex crime in 2001 and registered as a sex offender in 2005 after leaving prison. When he moved to Pennsylvania in 2007, he chose not to re-register as a sex offender and was arrested, convicted of violating the Walsh Act and sentenced to eighteen months in prison. He sued.

The Walsh Act, named in memory of a young Florida boy who was kidnapped and murdered, significantly beefed up sex offender sanctions by implementing new laws and requiring sex offenders to re-register no longer than three days after moving across state lines.

The Supreme Court ruling now exempts sex offenders with older sex-crime rap sheets who take up residences in new states. It also challenges legislators to create their own registration laws. But until that happens, the ruling not surprisingly has some child-protection advocates and lawyers miffed.

"My thought is if you are a sex registrable offender and you want to go somewhere, well go to Pennsylvania. Because as of yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court said that's okay, it's not against the law to go to Pennsylvania and work and live and apparently you don't have to register there-- at least not at this time," Dee Wampler, a Springfield defense attorney, told local News Channel KSPR.

But the seven-judge majority argued that applying the Walsh Act retroactively would open up too many cans of worms, and that new laws are best left up to state attorneys general. Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer stated: "The problems arise out of the fact that the Act seeks to make more uniform a patchwork of pre-existing state systems. Doing so could require newly registering or re-registering "a large number" of pre-Act offenders. That effort could prove expensive. And it might not prove feasible to do so immediately."

The dissenting judges made an odd couple. Conservative justice Antonin Scalia and liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg argued that the Adam Walsh Act protocol should apply for pre-Act offenders.


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30 comments
trentsharpening
trentsharpening

you got any source documents to confirm this information?

val03
val03

Sex offenders and Predators are like Sludge, they follow the path of least resistance..Sex offenders are also the only criminals who get "more dangerous" the further out from their original convictions.

Lawdvs
Lawdvs

Well every state needs to do this . If your case is older than those years it needs to stop . But what if you get a case and your on the S.O. List .? There make ppl go back into sex classes . That's not right. Even if you didn't reoffended on a sex act . MO. Is wrong for this act .

Mishachewey
Mishachewey

As a child I was the victim of a sex offender (a family member).  It was one of the most horrific things that ever happened to me and the crime occurred from the time I was in second grade until I left home at age 18.  I live with the psychological issues of this crime daily more than the actual physical crime.  BUT, let me tell you that the laws for these criminals are too harsh.  I fear what we are creating rather than what we could be solving. I truly believe that most sex offenders are wrongly placed on the list.  Only the worst offenders (repeat or violent offenders) should be on it.  Studies have shown that few (less than 3%) ever reoffend.  What we need are more programs to assist these offenders to understand why the offended in the first place. Most sex crimes are not about sex. Furthermore, studies show that stable employment and a stable home life create an environment in which helps the offender become healthier so as not to reoffend.  Unfortunately, when they are placed on the list, no one will hire them.  WHAT, are children still working in factories etc...that we need to worry that these individuals will harm a child while at work.  Come on people think about it.  By creating a situation of shame and difficulty and frustration in these individuals WE ARE OURSELVES creating an environment of reoffense and possibly more violent crimes by those who just give up trying to adhere to the stricter and more rigid laws placed upon them

oncefallendotcom
oncefallendotcom

How about those same set of justices reverse Smith v Doe. They know damn well the registry is unconstitutional.

Karen Younger
Karen Younger

This article is fear mongering. The decision did not say sex offenders can move into new states and not register. It says the Feds cannot convict someone for an event that preceded the Federal Adam Walsh Act. The State of Pennsylvania can still prosecute the guy if he violated Pennsylvania's registration laws. Lazy reporting.

MSLGWCEO
MSLGWCEO

Google "Ten Myths about Sex Offenders." and you will come to realize just how much the public has been 'programmed' through fear mongering. It's simply amazing how politicians and the entertainment news media has spread lies and myths.

Claire53
Claire53

And to Oak Cliff Townie - This world is not so dangerous as you think. Justice Dept statistics report crime is down, sex crimes against adults and contact sex crimes with children is down, and Steven Pinker writes that we are living in one of the safest periods of history. People think it is so dangerous because of media attention to it. Train your kids to parent themselves and you won't have to be so frightened to let them out into the world.

How about this - how about we figure out WHY people commit sexual crimes & inappropriate sexual behaviors and enlist preventative measures before people go off the deep end. For example, did you know that 92% of child porn possession arrests are of white men? Did 'ya ever stop to ask yourself what might be going on among white men that is apparently not going on with other demographic groups? Just food for thought. 

Claire53
Claire53

Thank you Shelly. Well said. And I wholly agree with your comment on the choice of graphics. Appalling and only exacerbates the moral panic, caused by myths, this country is gripped in regarding sex crimes. 

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Not to be mean but how about a better preventive  law that has penalties for parents who allow their kids to free range in such a dangerous world .

Letsgetreal50
Letsgetreal50

This is long past overdue relief from such retroactive draconian legislation.

Vicki Burton
Vicki Burton

Did the Sex Offender Registry PROTECT the children who were abused in the Penn State, Citadel and Syracuse scandals?  NO, and those are just the beginning......why because the media and lawmakers have focused solely onthe folks on the registries while children are being sexually abused in homes,neighbor's houses, and many other places we felt were safe because the"bad ones" were being monitored and on that "list" and thiswasn't supposed to happen....follow the money trail to see how it did and willcontinue as long as we have private prison lobbyist in Washington, GPSCompanies using Brinks to deposit the money they are making off the states (you) aswell as the lie detector personnel, urine analysis personnel and residency police all brought to you courtesy of the SMARTOffice via the Justice Department. Congress legislated it and TOLD you that it would "do the job" but they didn't "quite" fund it....imagine that!

 

There are over 760,000 registered men, women and childrenacross the nation required to register. The "crimes" range fromurinating in public, sexting, exposure, false accusations by a soon-to-beex-wife, angry girlfriend, or spiteful student, to looking at abusive orsuggestive images of anyone up to 18 years old, solicitation, Romeo and Julietconsensual sexual dating relationships, playing doctor, rape and incest. Credible studiesadvise that 95% of sexual offenses come from within the family unit, friend orsomeone know to the family and NEVER get reported. The registry is a way tomake parents "feel good!" Now if you multiply 760,000 by 3 or 4family members of the registrant there are over 2,000,000 folks suffering thecollateral damage caused by these registries. Families are harassed, beaten,threatened, forced to leave their church, lose jobs, lose family and friends.

How is the family supposed to survive and become functional again underthese conditions?

Vicki

Women Against Registry dot com

Smartymarty1111
Smartymarty1111

Sex Offender May Have a Case for Not RegisteringBy BARBARA LEONARDShareThis (CN) - Sex offenders do not need to register if they were convicted before enactment of a 2006 federal law, unless the attorney general makes that specific finding, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. The majority reversal offers relief to Billy Joe Reynolds who pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly failing to register and update a registration, in violation of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. Reynolds had spent four years in prison years earlier stemming from his 2001 conviction of a Missouri sex offense. Though Reynolds registered as a Missouri sex offender when he got out of prison, he moved to Pennsylvania in 2007 without updating his Missouri registration information or registering in Pennsylvania. The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act became law in July 2006, but it was not for another seven months that the attorney general promulgated interim rules applying the registration requirements to "all sex offenders, including sex offenders convicted of the offense for which registration is required prior to the enactment of that act." As Reynolds appealed his conviction, he claimed that the act's registration requirements had not yet become applicable to offenders with pre-2006 convictions. The courts were unsympathetic, however, with the 3rd Circuit finding that the act's registration requirements would not apply to "pre-act" of­fenders like Reynolds from the date of the new law's enactment, "even in the absence of any rule or regulation by the attorney general specifying that the new registration requirements apply," according to the Supreme Court's summary. A majority of justices concluded otherwise Monday. "The question before us is whether the act requires pre-act offenders to register before the attorney general validly specifies that the act's registration provisions apply to them," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the court. "We believe that it does not." "Although a state pre-act offender could not be prosecuted until he traveled interstate, there is no interstate requirement for a federal pre-act offender," Breyer added. "And to apply the act to either of these pre-act offenders from the date of enactment would require reading into the statute, silent on the point, some kind of unsaid equiva­lent. "Pre-act offenders, aware of such complexities, lacunae, and difficulties, might, on their own, reach different con­clusions about whether, or how, the new registration requirements applied to them. A ruling from the attorney general, however, could diminish or eliminate those un­certainties, thereby helping to eliminate the very kind of vagueness and uncertainty that criminal law must seek to avoid." The entire court did not share this view, however. "The issue is whether 'specify the applicability' means that no pre-act offenders need register unless the attorney general says so, or rather that the attorney general may excuse the unqualified requirement for pre-act offenders," according a dissent authored by Justice Antonin Scalia and joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "In that context, it seems to me that the latter meaning is more natural. One specifies the applica­bility of an application that already exists by describing or revising its contours." "Indeed, it is not entirely clear to me that Congress can constitutionally leave it to the attorney general to decide - with no statutory standard whatever governing his discretion - whether a criminal statute will or will not apply to certain individuals," Scalia added. "That seems to me sailing close to the wind with regard to the principle that legisla­tive powers are nondelegable. Construing the act to give the attorney general the power to reduce congressionally imposed requirements fits that bill, because such a power is little more than a formalized version of the time­-honored practice of prosecutorial discretion."Ex post factoex post facto adj. Formulated, enacted, or operating retroactively. [Med Lat., from what is done afterwards] Source: AHDIn U.S. Constitutional Law, the definition of what is ex post facto is more limited. The first definition of what exactly constitutes an ex post facto law is found in Calder v Bull (3 US 386 [1798]), in the opinion of Justice Chase:1st. Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action. 2d. Every law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed. 3d. Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed. 4th. Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offense, in order to convict the offender.However, not all laws with ex post facto effects have been found to be unconstitutional. One current U.S. law that has an ex post facto effect is the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. This law, which imposes new registration requirements on convicted sex offenders, also applies to offenders whose crimes were committed before the law was enacted.[10] The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Smith v. Doe (2003) that forcing sex offenders to register their whereabouts at regular intervals and the posting of personal information about them on the Internet does not violate the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws, because this does not constitute any kind of punishment.[11]With regard to the argument that the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA) does not constitute any kind of punishment I am in complete disagreement.  In fact, the opposite is true. For example: The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) prohibits and restricts freedom of travel, freedom of speech, freedom of use to many public and private properties by denying access or use, restricts and dictates where an individual may or may not take residence or temporary lodging, in general is discriminatory by it’s very nature.  SORNA specifically brings attention and focus to an individuals employment, residence and family and is relentless in doing so.  Does this not profoundly limit the scope of an individuals right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness?  In addition to the AWA we have Meagans Law, Jessica’s Law, the Wetterling Act which add to and compound restrictions applide to registered sex offenders.There are overwhelming numerous Federal, State, County and City laws governing restrictions of registered sex offenders lives.  Most sex offenders are forced into isolation which in itself is punishment.  Social interaction is a basic foundation of our existance as human beings and to think that all the banishments placed on an offender is not extremely harmful and is anything but raw punishment is absolutely absurd.Our Federal government, state and local government has created an entire industry premised on the dangers of sex offenders.  Legislators create political platforms of sex offenders.  Laws are created to be enforced by numerous law enforcement agencies and specialized departments of justice in great numbers think of new ways to restrict, punish or in someway circumvent the lives of  regiatered sex offenders, especially those who have served prison sentences, satisfied their parole obligations and desire nothing else but to get back to living an unencumbered life in peace and harmony in their communities with their families.What truly fascinates me is the fact that there is not one agency available to a sex offender who is being discriminated against or mistreated by other citizens (landlords and tennants), city police, county sheriff’s, detectives or any department of justice except perhaps a public defender attorney when an individual is originally accused and has no resources for an attorney.  Frankly, most public defenders repreent their clients poorly and most public defenders seem anxious to escape a trial in  court-which is what the state prefers, but rather compromise their clients judicial due dilegence (investigative reasearch, challange witnesses and law enforcement testimony, even consider the judges behavior who is a referee and who should be without prejudice in all cases.

Shelly Stow
Shelly Stow

First, I find the "picture" that you chose to accompany this article offensive and in bad taste. Registrants who have satisfied or are in compliance with the conditions set forth by the courts and are trying their best to live a normal, law-abiding life are already under a microscope and finding it almost impossible to find decent housing and employment. Your tacky picture legitimizes the idea that all registrants bear watching, and that is totally untrue.Secondly, the Supreme Court is doing what we expect it to do: uphold the Constitution. There is that pesky little ex post facto bit that people seem to have no trouble forgetting. That didn't happen this time around, and I applaud that decision.And we would all be better served if those "miffed" child-protection advocates would turn their attention toward the real cause of child sexual abuse. According to the DOJ and other sources, right at 95% of all new sex crime is committed by those not on the registry, primarily the family members and associates of the molested children.

trentsharpening
trentsharpening

@val03 And exactly what are you doing for your community to help create a better world?  Are you doing anything, or have you ever done anything that we might also define as "sludge"?  Think you could prevail the strict unnecessary laws vote hungry government people have created?  I wonder what God would have to tell about you.  That you are a perfect creature that has never made a mistake?  I would wager you don't anything about the facts on this issue and that you are just parroting words you have heard others say.  Have a good day. 

val03
val03

Actually middle and high schools should parade these guys in shackles in the auditorium and the convictions including the (court records) be read aloud to the participants. Bet you wont find many "I only peed on a bush, or I thought she was 18" excuses that Internet sex offenders love to toss out..and swear thats what they went down for..

MSLGWCEO
MSLGWCEO

Google: "Freerangekids" Just one word.

Karen Younger
Karen Younger

It really does not give much retroactive relief. Only applies to Federal Failure to Register "crimes" before the AWA was enacted. The court is not saying if your original sex crime was committed before the AWA it does not apply to you. Waiting for that ruling. Ohio has said the AWA cannot be applied retroactively and it is time the US Supreme Court does likewise.

val03
val03

Hey Vic tell the good people here what your kid went in for..it certainly wasnt for any of the above you like to use..

val03
val03

Shelly You find the article picture in Bad Taste?? Wonder what you would think if a picture of a four year old in intensive care with her insides torn out by a a repeat offender with tubes coming out of her would do to your sensibilities? Oh thats right, how silly of me. You collection of offenders and the women banging them dont get bothered by those pesky pictures right???

Jonbondave
Jonbondave

I think we could bypass all of this by hanging sex offenders from lamp posts until their feet stop kicking.

Shaun Webb
Shaun Webb

Same question charles....See my reply to Jon.  Ignorance is bliss.

Dolley Madison
Dolley Madison

Charles:

Think about the absolutely worst thing you have ever done in your life?  Is it something others do or do not know about you?  Did you pick your nose and eat bugars as a child?  As an adult?  Did you commit an act of violence toward an animal?  Toward a person but you were not caught?   Now imagine everyone in the world knowing about the worst thing you ever have done each and every day and your always being reminded and judged by others for it for the rest of your life...

Shaun Webb
Shaun Webb

Really Jon?  If it were you or a family member, would you put on the executioner's mask and drop the floor?  I didn't think so.

Chuck
Chuck

Jon,, your an ass apparently are not aware many so called sex offenders are teenagers and in states like Georgia there are children under 12 on the registry... try to get informed before you make dumb comments

val03
val03

Now I have heard it all..aligning a kid eating his bugars to a sexual assault.. You numb-nuts should be mandated to run your post thru Perv central before posting. You certainly  dont do yourselves any favors.

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