By Lou Varricchio . . . When we consider Vermont’s sex offender registry, let’s not forget that it’s designed as a civil regulatory scheme and not a vindictive means to further punish and censure fellow citizens for their past crimes.
Recently, the National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (NARSOL) sent official correspondence to Georgia’s Cobb County Sheriff’s Office calling upon that law enforcement agency to “cease and desist from imposing unlawful registration requirements on offenders.”
Many of us may not like such an idea, especially when it comes to sex offenders, yet there are genuine civil rights protections under which all of us should be ever vigilant.
Recently, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia issued a restraining order preventing the Butts County (Georgia)Sheriff from requiring signs to be placed on the property of those on the state’s sexual-offense registry at Halloween; this as a way to warn parents and kids. Such an idea is medieval to our enlightened 21st-century sensibilities.
Thankfully, the court ruling at least validates the fact that placing such “warning” signs on private property breaches basic constitutional rights. Clearly, these “warning” signs are nothing more than uncharitable, vengeful, sex-offender scarlet letters. And for what possible civil-minded purpose?
Let’s hope Vermont’s law enforcement community never goes down this road.
“States and communities need to be on notice,” according to a NARSOL statement about Georgia’s Halloween yard-sign incident. “They will be challenged the minute they start threatening the constitutional rights of registered citizens.”
In the words of French Judge Charles-Louis de Secondat (better known as Montesquieu) writing in his 1748 legal classic, “The Spirit of the Laws”, “There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.”