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Opinion: Virginia lawmakers unfairly target registered citizens

By Mary Davye Devoy . . . The 2018 Virginia General Assembly session is my 10th as a volunteer advocate for a smarter Virginia Sex Offender Registry. I use more than 20 years of data to support my work and offer fact-based recommendations for improving the laws.

In that time, I have watched as Virginia delegates and senators take a stance on one bill because it affects something or someone they support, but then they ignore that exact same stance on another bill because it affects something or someone they do not support.

Is this inconsistency? Is it cherry-picking? Is it hypocrisy? Whatever you want to call it, it’s 100 percent intentional and dishonorable.

In a Senate Courts of Justice Committee hearing held Jan. 17, members discussed a bill that would have made procession of a firearm a felony for anyone who had been served with a protective order for family abuse more than 24 hours earlier. Senators closely questioned the bill because the firearm owners wouldn’t be notified of this law so they could avoid committing a felony.

The chairman said that no notification “lends him great pause.” Then he voted against the bill, as did two other senators, and it moved onto the Senate Finance Committee, where its chances of moving forward are slim. Whether you support this bill or not, I would hope that most people would agree that if a law is directed at a specific group of people, those folks should be notified when necessary so they do not unintentionally commit a felony.

Then on Jan. 22, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee met. One of the bills discussed was SB 49. It would require all Virginia registered sex offenders who evacuate to an emergency shelter to notify the shelter security that they are on the Virginia State Police Sex Offender Registry.

I did not oppose this bill. Instead, I asked the committee for reasonable amendments. I reminded the committee that every time the legislature retroactively passes a new law directed at those already listed on the VSP registry, no notification is given by the state to those the law affects.

SB 49 would result in a felony if a registered sex offender does not self-disclose his or her status to the shelter security, so an amendment was needed to require the state police to notify registrants in writing as soon as the governor signs the bill into law, before it takes effect.

After all, having the registered sex offenders self-disclose is the goal, not arresting them for a felony by trapping them under law they didn’t know about, right?

The same Senate Courts of Justice Committee that repeatedly questioned the lack of notification for firearm owners ignored my concern and request for notification. Not one of the senators had any “great pause.”

Another bill moving through the 2018 session also needs amending to require notification to those on the registry. HB 622, which proposes retroactively banning the majority of nonviolent registered sex offenders from being on school property or attending school-sponsored functions, could result in felony charges as of July 1.

Currently these parents, grandparents and guardians (many of whom are without a spouse to pitch in) are taking their kids to and from school, sporting events, band practice, etc. They are legally attending parent-teacher conferences, award ceremonies and graduation, and picking up children when they are sick.

When the General Assembly made a similar change in a law in 2008, it too was retroactive, and no notice was given to those it affected. On July 1, 2008, the prohibited action became a felony. Schools were notified of the change in the law (either by their lobbyists or by the state), so after the law took effect and those registered sex offender parents, grandparents or guardians came onto school property for legitimate reasons, school staff members called the police and the registrants were arrested.

The Virginia General Assembly and our governor need to stop intentionally writing and passing retroactive laws against those with old convictions. It’s despicable and cruel.

Mary Davye Devoy has been a volunteer advocate for data-driven reform of the Virginia Sex Offender Registry and laws since October 2008.

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Robin 3 weeks ago.

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  • #33255 Reply

    Tammie Lawson

    Law makers need to realize that many families and innocent children are affected by the harsh rules of the register. There must be change!! What they are doing is unconditional and violates a person’s civil rights! Reform and Reclassification is needed not ignored!!

  • #33273 Reply

    We the people

    This the very abuse of power and tyranny that the Declaration Of independence states it is every citizen’s duty to Revolution! There should be a watch list of these nefarious Virginia congressman.

    • #33609 Reply

      Tammie Leigh Lawson

      I agree

  • #33280 Reply

    Fred

    SCOTUS has already ruled ex post facto sex offenders rules are Unconstitutional when they refused to over turn the 6th circuit ruling on sex offender registry ex post facto laws (Doe v. Snyder). https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/09/07/sex-offender-laws-and-the-6th-circuits-ex-post-facto-clause-ruling/?utm_term=.2f73533611a5

  • #33286 Reply

    Saddles

    While I’m happy to see this ethinical challenge that Nancy has brought to our attention as I am impressed. Yes these laws are oppressing to those that got caught up in a lot of this sex drama if you would like to call it. Some call it a witch hunt which might be adequate but still it depresses all. Seems like these sex laws in VA are like one changing their socks they change all the time when one person wants to make something agreeable or disagreeable. Is all this human nature or are they playing with the rights of we the people in a lot of this ordeal. Coming to common ground is still a legal right whether one does something physical or is challenged by all this “computer age” mind game that stigmatize those.
    I wonder who’s the victim and who’s the culprit, or is human law overshaddowing in these types of sexual situations..

  • #33726 Reply

    Seti IIII

    So, Ms. Devoy, what else is new? I think pretty much that state legislatures have had a big red bulls eye on registrants for the past 20 years, or at least since the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Dred Scott v Sandford (1857), no I mean Plessy v Ferguson (1896) oh I’m sorry, uhh, it’s Smith v Doe (2003). I get these cases confused because all three cases basically do the same thing—take away the Constitutional Rights of US citizens. But what do I know? In Smith the court said that: BANISHMENT, DISENFRANCHISEMENT, STIGMATIZATION, EMASCULATION, as a result of being on a state’s sex offender (SO) registry is not PUNISHMENT. Oh and don’t forget that registration/residency (RR) laws do not violate the constitutional ban on Ex Post Facto (when applied AFTER a person’s conviction and sentence) and RR laws do not violate Due Process, i.e., that the state does not have to give you notice or allow for an opportunity to be heard or confront your accuser. They hold the position that SOs pose a unique threat to the community; however, murderers, robbers, burglars, car thieves, home invaders, drug dealers are good to go—in other words, we don’t mind these types of criminals to be loose in the community with no one knowing where they are. Go figure. but anyway, what do I know.

  • #33733 Reply

    Anthony

    Yes, the expost facto clause violated when there is a double jeopardy or multiple penalties attached to the same action of conduct after the fact applied retroactively. THE FAILURE TO REGISTER AS A SEX OFFENDER IS NOT A NEW CHARGE FOR A NEW OFFENSE BECAUSE IT REVERTS BACK TO THE ORIGINAL CONVICTION. THIS IS NOT A CIVIL ACT BUT A CRIMINAL ACT AS CHARGED UNDER PENAL CODE THAT PRETENDS TO BE A CIVIL ACTION. THE BILL OF ATTAINDER DOES IN FACT ATTACHES ITSELF TO THIS TO BE RECHALLENGED IN STATE AND FEDERAL COURT. THE VERY PREMISE FOR THE MISFORMED AND MISGUIDED US JUSTICES WAS BASED ON FRAUDULENT EVIDENCE PRESENTED BACK IN 2002 ARGUMENTS AND DECISION OF 2003. STATISTICAL DATA WAS THE FRAUD ON SEX OFFENDER RECIDIVISM RAPIST OR CHILD MOLESTER COMPARED TO OTHER OFFENSES.

  • #34439 Reply

    Sherry Sloan

    If you take a hard look at the statistics you KNOW there are thousands of innocent men and women incarcerated nationwide. Only 7% of criminal cases go to trial the other 93% are resolved through plea bargains. Do you REALLY believe cops and prosecutors get it right 93% of the time? Could that even be possible knowing, as we do now, how routinely police reports don’t match the video from their own dash-cams, or audits of crime labs find serious, systemic errors affecting thousands of cases? So why do so many innocent people plead guilty? This is especially true in cases of child pornograghy. Because our draconian sentencing laws give prosecutors, not judges nearly all the power in the system. If you go to trial, they will heap on extra counts and charges to punish you for daring to question them, and if you are found guilty (a common occurrence even for the innocent because too many jurors believe “you must have did something” or you wouldn’t be on trial). Again, when children are involved, jurors tend to convict based on feelings, not evidence. You can expect to pay a “trial tax” where the judge hits you with extra time because you “wasted the court’s time” by going to trial. So if an Innocent man is being offered ten years, but know’s he’ll do life if convicted, which choice do you think is all to often made? Lawmakers are hard on these type crimes because they don’t want to be considered by their constituents as “friends of child molesters” when in fact most of all people on the registry never touched a child. I see in VA where they are trying to pass a law that will keep sex offenders on the registry from entering a shelters. This is in humane if they do not have anywhere else to go!! I hope Virginia lawmakers do not pass the law that would keep low level sex offenders from schools. This is cruel! The sex offender registry hurts more children in families whose parent are resgistered than it ever helped save!!! It needs to be abolished altogether.

  • #35306 Reply

    Saddles

    Folks you know we should appreciate everyone that strives to help in this sex ordeal. I know everyone is suffering to some extent. wather its over the cost of fines by tis, the lose, of jobs over this, or the lose of livelhood or liberty.
    Do you know their are keys to everything and what do keys do. They unlock. I wonder if some have found the right key.. Should we all be angry over this sex thing, should we all be angry over taking advantage of others, or should we all be in our pitty-pots and say why did I do this? Now really is that how to solve problems. Now NARSOL and all the other advocates try to find the answer and even you all that comment on here and me as well look for an answer but we sometimes seem not to find the answer when the answer could be right in front of you. Now I know we all want to take a humanistic view of all this and try to solve this problem man’s logical way. Listening to congressman, and senators and other law makers that don’t know their tuxedo from their long johns. Wouldn’t it be time to step up to the plate and say “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore” Now were was that movie pharase from?

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