A big win for South Carolina registrants – a “true miracle”

By Don T . . . We reported earlier on the bills that had been introduced in the South Carolina legislature in answer to last year’s SC Supreme Court decision that our arbitrary lifetime registration, without due process, was unconstitutional.  Now, we can happily report on May 12th, “It’s a great day in South Carolina!”  The effort has taken a somewhat tortured path, but it is now all but over, with only the governor’s signature remaining.

Two parallel bills were originally filed in the House and Senate.  After multiple sub-committee meetings in both houses and a considerable amount of testimony, which was almost totally in our favor, the subcommittees reported the bills favorably back to their respective judiciary committees.  So far, so good.  Then, unexpectedly, both judiciary committees tabled their respective bills on the same day, leaving everyone a bit perplexed.  A new strategy for streamlining the legislative process was revealed at the next meeting of the Senate committee.

Our bill was attached as an amendment to another bill that had already passed the House and was sent to the Senate floor.  The Senate subsequently approved the bill 42-0.  (We are not used to getting that kind of result!)  The amended bill went back to the House with four days remaining in the session.  That seemed like no problem until two days in a row members voted to table the bill.  Panic began to set in for us.  Then, midday, on the last day of the session, the bill was brought up and a minor amendment to the Senate amendment was offered.  The House approved the amended bill 80-0, but that caused it to be sent back to the Senate!

Every once in a while, you get to witness a true miracle.  It seems that if some legislators really want to get something done, they can.  Late that same afternoon, the Senate took the bill up again and passed it, gaining final approval.  It now needs only the governor’s signature to become law.

So what did we get?  For the first time, there is now clear definition of the tiers to which people are assigned.  Much like the federal law, specific offenses will result in classification to the tiers.  The really good news is that many offenses have been put in lower tiers than are currently being utilized.  This will result in many people being moved to a lower tier than they are currently in.  Especially helpful is that many Tier III registrants will move to Tier II and will now only have to register twice a year.

The bill also provides systems to be removed from the registry, patterned, at least partially, after the Adam Walsh Act.  The details are too complex to list them all here, but generally, Tier I and Tier II registrants can petition the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), which operates the registry, after 15 or 25 years, respectively.  If they have remained offense-free for that time, completed all the terms of their sentence and completed any required treatment program, SLED is to remove them, though the solicitor can oppose the removal with cause.  If the SLED removal process is denied, the registrant can then petition the court for removal and must show by clear and convincing evidence that he or she is not a risk to reoffend.  In addition, Tier III registrants can petition the court in this manner after 30 years, but cannot be removed automatically by SLED.

The final benefit granted by this bill is significant relief for juveniles, for which we have been fighting for years.  Children under 14 can no longer be placed on the registry unless they have committed a Tier III offense and then only at the discretion of the family court judge.   Children under 12 cannot be placed on the registry for any reason.  Family court judges will also have discretion over registration for juveniles 14 and over who were guilty (adjudicated delinquent) of Tier I or Tier II offenses.

Of course, it seems like someone always has to throw in a “gotcha” when good things are happening.  There is one provision in the bill that people will not like so much.  It will now be illegal for registrants who were guilty of one of five listed offenses against minors to “operate, work for, be employed by, or volunteer for a child-oriented business.”  Fortunately, there is little to no penalty for violating this unless one does it repeatedly.

After several years of wrapping up the legislative session with the assessment, “Well, at least nothing bad happened,” it is with the greatest satisfaction that we report this excellent progress in the great state of South Carolina!

 

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32 Thoughts to “A big win for South Carolina registrants – a “true miracle””

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  1. Annoymous

    This needs happen in Tennessee. Here in Tennessee there is no due process. Many offender(s) despite their offenses being before 2014, was apply to register for life because 2014 amendment.
    Change needs to happen.

  2. Tim in WI

    Don,
    Gee slavery with tier approach is considered a miracle in your estimation? Tiers will only cause more confusion as evidenced in California. There is such a thing as tyranny via tier any. There is also the federal SORNA to consider with respect to the travel of SC registrants because more interstate law comparison will be necessary. Will SC tier IIs be treated like WI tier IIs etc. etc and the administration of it as in who compares state’s to each other. Until legislators outright reject human slavery there is no room for liberty. That the gov database is the reality, and the database issue is intrinsically tied to the sexual “deviant” is not my doing. That is wholly the doing of D&Rs in the 1990s by adopting the electronic regime itself. It is first proprietary use of the machine infrastructure to engage in domestic surveillance by states. If the people can be convinced to enslave some their own to the database driven infrastructer ( tiered or not) how far you figure the federalists will go to preserve it? The Rehnquist Court claimed the “mainly administrative” duty pointed to civil intent without recognizing it as labor! Either free men are paid to maintain machine or they are not. California now has processing for removal and reclassification. Something that wasn’t present upon the birth of the regime. Life registration terms were assigned without process AND without opportunity to contest NOR opportunity for removal. Very telling these facts with respect to the database regimes underlying intent despite the preamble. Simple retribution.

    1. Don T

      Tim,

      First of all, let me note that the “miracle” I was referring to in the article was the fact that a bill that had been radically amended by the Senate and I thought was all but dead was amended again by the House, sent back to the Senate and approved, all in the course of one afternoon! The bill itself was not a miracle; it was the product of several years of dedicated, determined work by a large number of people, in and out of the legislature, who rallied together to take advantage of the window that the Supreme Court handed us this year.

      Though I think it was mentioned in my earlier article, perhaps I should have clarified it better here. We have been using tiers in SC for about 15 years. But nobody knew what caused you to be in the tier you were in, and almost 2/3 of the registrants were classified as Tier III. Only within the last two years was there any attempt to tie tiers to offenses, and then SLED just tried to define it according to how people had been classified in the past. Now the tiers will be written into state law and the new definitions are much more lenient that the earlier ones, causing many people to be reclassified to a lower tier.

      Tiers have nothing at all to do with interstate travel, or even a move to another state. When traveling, one only needs to pay attention to what events (usually days in the state) cause you to have a registration requirement in any state that you visit. That is the way it has been and will continue to be. It is not affected by this legislation. To the best of my knowledge, none of the states cares one bit about another state’s tiers. Each state does their own thing and has their own definitions.

      Honestly, I can’t imagine how you can equate registration with slavery. No one has asked me to do any work for them. Yes, we all have to register periodically. But we all have to renew drivers licenses and passports periodically, as well as numerous other civic responsibilities. I suggest you take a few minutes to consider the plight of the thousands of Ukrainians that have been shipped off to Russian concentration camps in Siberia and see if you feel the same about the fairly minimal impact on your life in comparison.

      In the end, I ask you what YOU are doing to POSITIVELY impact the situation? Are your complaints setting you free? I have been working for years toward the event that just happened yesterday. Is it the end of the war? Certainly not. But it was a pivotal battle. Please forgive us South Carolinians while we celebrate!

      Don

      1. The truth

        Except those do not require years I’m prison if you dont do. Not only that, 30 years for tier III is insane if that’s 30 years from, when you’re released. That’s still practically life for said people in the get out in their 30s or 40s which is hardly any victory. The fact tiers are tied to original offense is stupid in that a victim of 13 years old is usually tier 2 and one under is tier 3. They could have done the exact same thing yet one is somehow considered more dangerous just because of age. It’s good it was passed, but as usual, tier 3’s are thrown under the bus…..

  3. A Mistake They Made

    So read it thru and i’m thinking wow they are making some good changes then at the end they spit on the constitution with the employment discrimination add in. I hope that comes back to haunt them some day some how. The people must be forced back to obeying the constitution of the USA. Can they tell a person that took a candy bar without paying for it that they can never work in a store? Will they ever be able to do this? The same rules must apply equally to all.

    1. Don T

      I was not happy with the employment provision, but it was a classic example of knee-jerk legislation responding to media-alarm events. In this case, a man who had been convicted of sexually assaulting a child was operating an ice-cream truck, roaming through residential neighborhoods. I have to admit that even I was a little alarmed by the situation. Of course, there was a significant public outcry that resulted in this provision being added to our bill. There was no opportunity to oppose it, and honestly, it is hard to oppose. In truth, most of the things that the law prohibits would not be possible any way because business and organizations that provide services to children all do background checks now, and would never hire someone with this background.

      Besides, as I noted in the article, the penalties are insignificant. If you are found to be in violation, the police have to come and ask you to stop. If you continue in this capacity after being warned by law enforcement, you are guilty of a misdemeanor, which has nothing to do with registration status. If you continue after that, you probably should be locked up!

      Don

  4. Christian

    A bit disappointing to be honest.
    Is a 25 year requirement to register better than a lifetime? Sure, marginally. I guess I won’t have to haul my future geriatric self to my County Sheriff’s Office every 6 months. But as for my useful life, I’ll be stuck on the Registry.
    I was hopeful they would adopt North Carolina’s 10 year removal process.
    I guess now that the language is in the statutes, the next push should be an easy amendment to lower the timeframe to match our neighboring state.

    1. Don T

      Christian,

      The average age that people are put on the registry is somewhere in the low to mid 20s.
      So the average Tier I offender will be eligible for removal sometime in his/her late 30’s. I feel sorry for you thinking that your useful life is over at the ripe old geriatric age of 39. I’ve got 30 on top of that, and looking forward to many more. Personally, I would much rather get off the registry at 75 than to die on it.

      I, too, had hoped for shorter time lines and argued for them before both the House and the Senate. But unlike North Carolina, we are an AWA-compliant state and legislators are very unwilling to enact things below what is required by SORNA, especially in an election year.

      Please don’t think the war against injustice is over.

      Don

  5. Emma Greer

    Thank God! I’m in Hope for Texas to receive a miracle. There’s too many registrars who are suffering and struggling to find a place to live.

    Sadness in Texas

    1. Larry T

      I can appreciate the feeling of hope that this brings to those that it directly affects. I can see where, maybe it could be used to set a tone for other states.
      The harsh reality is that as long as you’re on the registry, you’re experiencing a continuous punishment. They can write it in any language they want, but you are still a prisoner. The courts can call it anything they want, administrative, child protection, what ever they like. As long as it exists we who are on these registries and those that are directly affected, as in family members etc. are falsely imprisoned by a corrupt system.
      Twenty five years. I’ll be dead before I can even apply. The tier system has been in place since the inception, but as someone else said, there is no standardization.
      There is even a failure of a consensus of offenses that qualify as registerable. In Utah a man is busted for urination behind a dumpster. No sex offense in Utah.
      Same man moves to Texas ten years later and is stopped for speeding. They run his record and find this previous conviction. In Texas it’s a registerable offense. So now he’s arrested for failure to register and gets three years in FCI Big Spring because he crossed state lines on top of everything else. Now his life is ruined. He lost his wife and children because of the restrictions he must abide by and he can no longer work in his chosen profession as a teacher.
      Who is being protected from what?
      I have to ask, at least to myself, how many other people are victims of this same basic miscarriage of justice.
      What’s going on from my view point, is a systematic way of removing the rights and freedoms from an enormous portion of the population. Using fear on a basic level to get the ignorant public to support their own eventual enslavement.
      I was reading last week that the Innocents Project calculates that as many as Twenty percent of the prison population in the United States are innocent of any crime.
      Until we, in some way, can remove the financial incentive that goes with the registry, it will continue to thrive and the people will continue to be enslaved by it.

      1. Anonymous

        Larry,

        Your comment brings to bear another reality whenever the laws change, favorably, or otherwise. Even if we are released from our registry obligations in our state of residence, moving or even traveling to another state can still cause tripwires for us if we’re not careful.

        It’s a wonder we haven’t argued that being removed from the registry in one state should be honored by other states due to the Full Faith and Credit Clause. I’m not sure if we would prevail under such an argument, but it would be an interesting legal analysis.

  6. CherokeeJack

    Not to be a naysayer, but are you not putting the cart before the horse. You said the Governor still needs to sign it. No one really knows if he/she will sign it, other than the Governor themselves.
    Again not being a Debbie Downer but we have seen this sort of thing before where celebrations broke out, then the dam broke. Otherwise, I will stay positive, even though it won’t help anyone other than those in that courts district, if it passes the Governor test, take the win.

    Start saving your money because it looks like you have to hire an attorney to petition with any chance of removal. I have been to court numerous times and represented myself in traffic court and always win (Former law enforcement). But something like this I would not want to chance it to fate, as your life and your future are in the balance.

    I will keep those in SC in my prayers. I wish everyone there the best outcome and please invite me to the celebration party, especially if there are good snacks 🙂

    1. Don T

      Cherokee Jack,

      After watching the Senate vote 42-0 and the House vote 80-0 in favor of this bill, and having heard every time it was discussed before legislators that it was “must pass” legislation, I am not terribly concerned about the Governor. The Governor is not at all friendly to our cause, but he isn’t stupid. Besides, our legislature is not at all afraid of overriding his vetoes!

      I expect initially, that there will be opposition to the removals. The Attorney General, who has built his career bashing registrants, made a point of telling the Senate he would. But I don’t expect it to take long before foolish, baseless oppositions will die out as an exercise in futility.

      Thanks for your prayers!

      Don

  7. James T in Indiana

    Good news for those on lifetime registry in South Carolina, but not a “miracle”. When the facts show single-digit re-offense rates even after 5 years, 10 or 25 years on the registry is still draconian punishment.
    A real “miracle” is the total repeal of SORNA. Then the registry in each state will likely be successfully attacked and at least become less punitive (if that’s possible). Maybe even abolished in some states.

    Let’s not forget lifetime federal supervision for such offenses as possession (non-production) of child porn. And don’t get me started on 5+ years of punitive, containment-based “treatment” with mandatory polygraphs every 3 to 6 months, which aren’t even approved by the American Psychology Association.

    1. Don T

      James,

      As I pointed out to Tim in WI, the bill was not the miracle, it was the short-circuited legislative process that got it passed at the last minute.

      Please don’t mistake my enthusiasm for a belief that the injustices of our sexual offense laws are somehow gone. I don’t believe the war is over until there are no more registries and the term “sex offender” gets listed by the dictionary as an archaic term.

      But we, in South Carolina, are extremely happy about the passage of this bill because an estimated 5000 people will be eligible for removal from the registry this year, followed by at least 500 more next year, and several thousand more in 2024. I wish that you could share in our victory. We will hope for future similar successes in Indiana and the federal laws.

      Don

      1. James T in Indiana

        Don, I do celebrate a win in your state. It sets a precedent for other states to eliminate the lifetime registry and establishing a method to be removed.

        I would like to see at least one state agree with all the experts on the American Law Institute committee to bring real factual-based change to the registry.

  8. mud

    if i did this to another person i would be in prison for 13th amendment crimes: kidnapping, forced labor, involuntary servitude.

  9. Edward rugglesedward1@gmail.com

    It’s a step in the right direction…a small step…I’ll give myself a light of hope that this is the begining to at least be removed from a public registration.

  10. DW in SC

    In your previous release you stated that those originally convicted in another state which requires lifetime registry would not be removed in SC. Also the local Sheriff’s department registry coordinator has informed me that three registrants moved to North Carolina and did not have to register there because the requirement was less years than they’d already served.

    1. Tim in WI

      I forget when but a federal district federal judge identified the registry conflicted with a section of the commerce clause, as it impeded intrastate travel. The higher court panel rejected that judges analysis of the cases similar to what went down in Colorado with judge Matsch and his “cruel and unusual” opinion and what went down in WI (7th fed district ) when that judge found conflict ” unlawful taking without due process” with WI 100$ annual and cumulative fee for registration for morperhaps residing in Florida, all appeals were rejected by higher court panels. Either these sitting judges have ( had) a clue on how to perform “constitutional discipline analysis” or they did not.
      Given these three scenarios I have mentioned above were each on merit rejected by the higher court paneIs which reviewed them, I’d be forced to believe these three lower fed court judges did not get the analysis correct. And if we are forced to believe all of the three incorrectly identified constitutional limitations or conflicts in these, what does this say about the rest of the case analysis scenarios the three individual Federal Judges participated in during their careers? I tend to agree with former Justice Stevens – “There is something else afoot in this case..”(Alaska v Bartello1998: 9th) And that something else is the governments databases. If no liberty were at stake with respect to the government uses of the database who would complain? None. The people are complaining and those complaints are being sidestepped by those few who wish to maintain their unfettered use. This tact only results in less liberty and not more for the people. The sex offender understands this facit perhaps more than any other group. What has been done to the sex offender is not passive, as the Smith V Doe majority suggested, in fact it highly aggressive.
      It is also an antecedent for the rest of the people as evidenced in North Carolina and their attempts to ban the sex offender from using the database driven in infrastructure ( internet) entirely by law. Sure SCOTUS rejected the NC ban law, but the rejection doesn’t erase the people’s retributive attempt to do so. It just proves the underlying intent behind the regime from the beginning, to impose additional affirmative restraint upon the liberty of sex offender through use of the database and to assist law enforcement through the use of the database. Whether the database or its use enables peace among the people is quite unevidant. Whether the database enables far more crime than it circumvents is quite evident. This is why the people insist on naming it “A regisrty” and not “A database.” Plain cognitive dissociation with purpose to deny culpability.

    2. Tim in WI

      I would consider having a conversation @NCRSOL if you plan to move or even visit that state. I’m not surprised to hear of the positive outcomes you reported. The Top guy here is from NC himself as are other associates. The leadership of NC took a constitutional beating in a case known a Packingham, which is appropriate in name considering the pork barreling project the registration regime was for the post conviction labor crowd. I have put registration agents on the witness stand and had them declare their career earnings for doing their ” mainly administrative duties” and I think most people would be shocked. I’ve seen jurors react too the testimony in body language. It’s don’t know about NC or SC but IL and WI are union labor with good wages and benefits. So it gets expensive for states to maintain the database. And when you’ve had to pay legal fees for violating civil rights for not processing new residents correctly what choice can they make but say it isn’t necessary. When the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. I suggest you make them.

  11. TS

    @Don T

    I would love to see what the science and their calculus is for the years they give for each tier. They seem arbitrary and akin to more then just getting blood from a turnip, but inflicting the most pain they can and still meet the intent of allowing a path off for all.

    Tell me a murderer will always do 30 years, then SC has a bit more standing but they won’t because they don’t. A misdemeanor is worth 15 years? Again, they met the intent, but not without making it exceptionally painful for all on the registry. Statistically, at 17 years a person is no longer a threat. The added 13 years to make 30 overall for tier 3 is just because they can as elected officials.

    Did anyone asked about this calculus in the process? What is the science behind it? Now, it is time to get them to understand the science and place appropriate criteria/requirements within each tier for removal with appropriate times, not just follow other states who have done similar years in their tier removal schemes. A great small victory… now make it a better victory for all impacted.

    1. James T in Indiana

      TS,
      There is NO science behind 90 percent of the laws and registry of citizens who committed a sex offense. No experts or statistics, just the emotional and misguided hatred of John Walsh and the politicians who saw an opportunity for fear and votes. Protecting adults and children from sexual harm was not their priority. Getting votes was priority of politicians and for John Walsh I would guess it was to release some of the hatred he has for the horrific murder of his son by an evil animal in human form

    2. Don T

      TS,

      Trust me, I give them the real numbers and the real science every time I speak to legislators, which included several times on this bill. Most of them know the reality. But it is overshadowed by their fear of losing votes in the next election or losing a few dollars of Byrnes Grant money if they lose their AWA compliance status. That is the simple truth about politics. We must all work on educating the public about the futility of the registry. When voters start asking them why we continue to waste money ruining peoples lives with it, their decision calculus will change.

      Don

      1. Jeremy from Indiana

        You can’t use the “ruining lives” argument at all. Most people feel we “ruined” our lives when we committed our offenses. The argument that should be used more often is that productive citizens are less likely to reoffend; therefore, it actually IMPROVES child safety for the masses when former offenders have a job and a place to live. This has always been my argument because you will never appeal to the humanity of us “monsters”. Appeal to the benefits for the vulnerable instead. If a former offender can’t find a job and can’t find a home, what incentive do they have for not committing another crime? NOT having 3 hots and a cot every day?

      2. TS

        Thanks @Don. I figured you had and many of your colleagues do when in battles like this.

        I have to agree the ruining of lives is a short argument where the argument should be why are they ruining the ability for people to reintegrate into society productively after paying the penance handed to them? Of course, they want the pound of flesh and will continue to ask for it regardless.

        Please keep up the good fight in the Palmetto state!

  12. Jeremy from Indiana

    “operate, work for, be employed by, or volunteer for a child-oriented business.”

    Um, why is that a bad thing??? As someone who was convicted of possession of child pornography, I have absolutely no business working in a position that specifically works with children… period… ever.

    That is one “right” (if you can even call it a right) that child offenders SHOULD lose… forever.

    Sorry, not sorry

    1. Tim in WI

      I cannot speak for others, but I tend to agree with you on this prohibition you mentioned. Working with children is far too risky for those who have shown by their own behavior an attraction to them. However many registered people have attacked adults and not children. Therefore, state’s shouldn’t, or cannot in good reason, prohibit those offenders with the prohibition. The people of course do not make that distinction. Much of constitutional adherence draws it’s strength by and through “narrowly tailored law” which compels law makers ( Congress) to be specific as to the behavior (identified manifest evil or wrongdoing) to be avoided for the benefit of the population. However sex offender registration is a “catch all” regime and not narrow in its use with respect to which identified manifest evil it targets and regulates. The registry is a broad general tact used to address many different types of identified behaviors. The minority pointed to this divergence in SMITH V DOE03, as a probative fact rendering the intent behind the database driven regime as “unquestionably punitive in effect.” The minority opinion was rejected by the majority with the claim the length of terms of the database driven regime were reasonable and related to the level of wrongdoing. But if this were truely the case there would be NO NEED for changing the laws to a tiered approach. “Tiers” came about precisely because the early registration regime was overbroad and generic, the inverse of narrow in terms of intent.
      Generally in this venue provided by NARSOL and others, I comment about the regime in terms of the unconstitutional government use of database. I do not focus on the “the nature of offense or crime committed” and I am freed in doing so precisely because of the overbroad reliance upon the database driven infrastructure in of itself to address manifest evils the people have presumptively chosen for themselves. I say to all humans there are some things a database machine cannot fix or prevent. So there is no need to enslave humans to their maintenance for life without due processes. To do as has been done in its generalized application, only suggests and codifies the notion ALL humans are incapable of learning from their mistakes. (repentance) If that notion takes hold in the land of liberty, it will be no more because ” victims” and “perpetrators ” both will be right back in the same position again. The same logic was the inpetus for the foundation of the forefathers, that of a Republic with no mention of the word democracy contained therein. And with good reason! The proof is in the puddin. Blood in the streets.

    2. James T in Indiana

      Jeremy,
      Completely agree with that restriction. It is part of all release conditions and registry conditions. Any person, company, or agency that is legit will run a background check, as they should. The ALI recommendations still allows law enforcement to provide that info when requested since ALI recommended that the registry should no longer be public ally available on the internet.
      The registry should be abolished, but keep in mind NARSOL is an acronym for National Association for Rational Sex Offense Laws. That restriction you pointed out IS rational.

  13. freedomwriter

    It is amazing the mental gymnastics courts have done t find these laws, along with civil forfeiture, and civil commitment constitutional and legal.

    1. w

      Yep, real smart linguistics. And that’s exactly why I don’t trust or need lawyers, even “good ones”. The bad ones hide the good loopholes and channel you through the process in the least beneficial path while upselling the little “good” you’ll recieve. This art is an exact mirror of what it takes to make these laws, and how they keep this train on its rails.

      And a good lawyer…well one that risks their repitation for you is not a casuality people should have to accept. This is and always was YOU vs The People of the State. Anyone who tries to help is appreciated but The People have methods of crippling those who are a threat to their system. Shaddow bans. Social media. Good ole neighborhood gossip. Corrupt officials. And of course law en(slavement).

      So it’s a smart and silent war they got, especially here in Kalifornia. A war where nothing is offlimits but they never get caught because they’re doing it all with a smile, a smartphone, a school bus.

      And a syringe.

  14. Jim

    The governor will NEVER sign it. If he, does it will ruin his political career and destroy him and his family. They will be hunted like rats and take any chance he has for a life in the future. Just speaking the reality of going against the sex offender laws in this nasty country. Also, if he does decide to ruin his career and life by signing the bill, it will be swiftly repealed. We are the select group of people who are the original ones to start of removing rights from everyone for the illusion of safety. Just a start, there will be no rights for anyone soon. The only right left will be “Right This Way” into some form of list or imprisonment.