Associated and related organizations:
CautionClick (National Campaign for Reform)
Helping Offenders Successfully Transition (H.O.S.T.)
SAEN, Inc (Sexual Abuse Ends Now)
Education and information for all sex offender laws & issues:
SOSEN (Sex Offender Solutions and Education Network)
Education and information focusing on prevention:
Sexual Abuse Ends Now (SAEN)
Employment resources and opportunities:
Amazing Things Church OL - Christian-based program
Supporters and Friends of RSOL
Important Supreme Court decisions
U.S. Court of Appeals decisions
Various state court decisions
I'm a public defender. My clients would rather go to jail than register as sex offenders. (Rachel Marshall. Vox. 2016)
Why the sex offender registry isn’t the right way to punish rapists (Dara Lind, Vox. 2016)
Hidden challenges Sex offenders legislated into homelessness (Jill Levenson. 2016)
No Place to Call Home Rethinking Residency Restrictions for Sex Offenders (Gina Puls, Boston College, 2016)
"Why the Innocent Plead Guilty": An Exchange (Nancy Gertner, et al, 2016)
"Stranger Danger" to Children Vastly Overrated (Glenn Fleishman, 2015)
Global Overview of Sex Offender Registration and Notification Systems (SMART Office, 2014)
Why Kids Sext (Hanna Rosin, 2014)
Pedophilia: A Disorder, Not a Crime (Margo Kaplan, 2014)
Capitol Punishment: The Troubling Consequences of Federal Child Pornography Laws (Andrew Extein, 2014)
Reynolds vs US (RSOL, 2014)
My Son, the Sex Offender: One Mother's Mission to Fight the Law (Tony Dokoupil, 2014)
Raised on the Registry (2013) (includes link to full HRW study)
Sex Offender Residency Restrictions Impede Safety Goals (Jill Levenson, 2012)
Sex Offenders: The New Second Class Citizens (Derek Logue, 2012)
If It Saves One Child (Sandy Rozek, 2012)
How Safe Are Trick or Treaters? (Jill Levenson, 2010)
Richard B. Krueger, The New Witch Hunt (In public domain.) (2007)
Pariah: Sexual Fascism in Progressive America (Used with permission.) (2006)
Hollida Wakefield, The Vilification of Sex Offenders (Used with permission.) (2006)
Actually, some states do register other categories of offender. There was even a push for registries for animal abusers recently. This is another strong reason why we must stand up and fight. Once the public has grown to accept such a terrible infringement on one group’s liberties, the government will feel free to take that liberty from others – all in the interest of public safety and the common good, of course!
How can they keep adding punishment or restrictions to me? Isn’t that double jeopardy and unconstitutional?
It ought to be, but public registration is not considered “punishment”, legally speaking. The United States Supreme Court and most state courts have deemed registration to be a “civil regulatory scheme” like the permit required to own a firearm, or earning a driver’s license. As a civil regulation, it can be changed at any time by your elected representatives.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. You’re on the registry because you either were found guilty, pled guilty/no contest, or took an Alford plea to a sexual crime. But nobody – absolutely nobody – deserves the public humiliation and harassment of the public registry.
Public registration is just as bad, if not worse, than being on probation or parole! Why isn’t it considered punishment?
Most people, if you ask them, probably would say it IS punishment. Even some lawmakers agree. But the last time public registration was challenged all the way to the US Supreme Court, that court decided registration was NOT punitive. And at that time, it probably wasn’t. You mailed in an update once a year, and your picture was on the Internet. That’s it. But much has changed since then, and a new case must be taken to the Supreme Court to change that decision.
The public has a genuine right to have access to a person’s conviction records. These have always been public, and are increasingly easy to locate as states and counties move to online data storage. AFTER supervision is complete, however, does the public have the right to:
- Track a person’s every move?
- Receive constant updates of personal information?
- Receive notifications when a former offender moves into the neighborhood?
- Know what vehicles a person owns or drives?
- Know where that person attends school?
- Know where that person is employed?
The constitutionally-correct answer is a resounding “NO.” Until former offenders take a stand against these encroachments on their liberties, however, things will continue to get worse.
Nobody – absolutely NOBODY – deserves the humiliation of public registration. It is simply a government-sponsored form of harassment and profiling, and there is no clear evidence that public registration has been effective in preventing sexual abuse of minors or adults. Those of us who are in this fight must ALL pull together to fight public registration. If someone needs to be supervised in the interest of public safety, that supervision should be a part of his/her actual sentence, and does not need to be publicized to be effective.
I took a plea because I was assured that conviction did not require registration (or only required X years). How can the state now tell me it’s more?
As long as registration is considered to be a civil regulatory scheme, the State is allowed to change the registration requirements whenever it sees a “public safety” need. Unlike the courts, lawmakers have not made any agreements with the person convicted of the sex offense. If lawmakers believe that changing public registration requirements will keep children safe, they can simply draft a law to change those requirements, and the law is presumed to be constitutional.
I didn’t actually commit a crime! My attorney said I had a choice between taking the plea or facing an unsympathetic judge/jury and getting huge amounts of jail time. Can’t I withdraw my plea?
Withdrawal of a guilty plea is possible but extremely difficult. You would have to be willing to hire a lawyer, present lots of solid evidence that establishes your actual innocence that was not available at the time of your plea, and hope that the judge/jury is more sympathetic than your original lawyer predicted. In other words, it’s a crap shoot.
You aren’t going to like this answer: In most instances, your judge actually did not “sentence” you to a particular period of registration. He/she merely pointed out that the duty to register would be a consequence of your conviction. In most jurisdictions, a judge has no control over the duration of your registration. The Court merely advises that the conviction itself will trigger registration requirements at the time it imposes the sentence.
I don’t have huge amounts of money for a lawyer. Won’t anyone take my case out of the goodness of their heart?
It is not impossible. But it is very unlikely. Think of it this way: How much of your time would YOU be willing to give? Say you’re lucky, and are putting in 50-60 hours a week as an independent businessperson. Would you willingly set aside 10 or more hours each week, for several weeks or more, and pay significant out-of-pocket expenses, to get a stranger out of a tough situation? The state will vigorously defend these laws; therefore, any challenge requires financial resources that most small law firms simply cannot provide pro bono. If you still want to try, expect to spend many hours searching for an attorney, and to get numerous rejections.
That depends on what you want the lawyer to do. If you simply want to complain about having to register, there is nothing he/she can do. If you want to challenge some constitutional aspect of registration, there might be an attorney in your state interested in pursuing that angle.
My lawyer told me I’d better plea bargain, so I did. Now I’m regretting it. Can I do anything about it now?
Not likely. Withdrawal of a plea is extremely difficult in most situations You would have to prove that your plea was not “knowingly and intelligently” entered, and that is all but impossible because of the string of questions you were asked at the time of the plea. Those questions were asked for the sole purpose of preventing you from having “buyer’s remorse” later.
No, it will not stop. “Sex Offenders” are the new lepers of modern society. Many people believe that they are no longer humans. Look at the Jews in the Holocaust. Look at the early Christians in Rome. We must stand up and stand proud, and let everyone know that once our punishment is complete, we deserve the same respect that any other human being deserves, and should receive the same treatment from our government as any other US citizen.
Why can’t we just explain to our lawmakers that these laws are unconstitutional? It’s so obvious anyone can see that!
We can explain until we are blue in the face. If we are good at explaining, our lawmakers will “get it.” But then they have to be willing to propose changing the laws. They are every bit as terrified of taking a stand against sexual offender registration, as are the registrants themselves.
Taking my case back to court to challenge the registry is scary! Someone might harass or threaten me/my family/my employer/etc. Is there any way to avoid that risk?
No. But there is also significant risk in doing nothing at all. As long as lawmakers and law enforcement think nobody cares what they do, they WILL continue to make things worse. But once we start to fight back we will begin to see change.
I don’t know enough about politics or government. What could I say that would persuade my representatives that they should change the laws?
As an individual, the biggest thing you can do is let your legislator know how these laws have impacted your life. Tell them what you have done to improve yourself as a person, how hard you have worked to move on, how certain you are that you are NOT a danger to ANYONE. Explain how doors are shut in your face when you apply for work, try to rent a room or apartment, or attempt to take classes at the local community college. If you are a member of your state’s advocacy group, they may be able to help you develop a public testimony for use at a hearing when a new law is introduced. Or perhaps there will be specific letters to write. The important thing is to GET INVOLVED. You can learn as you go along!
It’s very unlikely that you will be arrested for communicating with an elected official, because that is your right. You are their constituent, and represent a potential vote for them in the next election. They will listen to you – even if they don’t much care for “sex offenders” as a whole. You simply can make an appointment with your representative, and talk with him/her in an office. Be on your best professional behavior, and share your message as concisely and clearly as possible. Will it change his/her mind? Maybe not – but no harm will come from it.
Public testimony does carry some risk but you will not be arrested just for testifying at a hearing. Even people under supervision have that right. However, you might be recognized or your face could be shown on television. If you aren’t “out” with your employer or neighbors, or if law enforcement in your jurisdiction tend to be unfriendly to registrants, that could mean trouble. If this is a show-stopper for you, consider sending WRITTEN testimony instead.
Keep in mind that the federal government does not operate sex offender registries, the states do. Congress passed the AWA in 2006 hoping to convince the states to strengthen their registries, and offered them financial incentives to do so. At the same time it threatened them with a 10% reduction in their Byrne Grants if they did not. The only realistic challenge that can be mounted at the federal level is seeking the repeal of the AWA.
Class Action Lawsuits are vastly misunderstood. First, it is extremely difficult to have a case certified as a “Class Action.” The Plaintiff seeking such a certification must convince the Court that he/she can adequately represent the interests of all class members. This includes providing all class members written notice of the action along with their option to opt out of the class. Second, recovery of any damages would be most unlikely since there is simply no case law to support the theory that registration in and of itself inflicts additional damage beyond what is caused by the underlying conviction.
Probably, but not necessarily. It varies greatly from state to state because some state constitutions provide greater ex post facto protections for state citizens than the U.S. Constitution does. In fact, there have been several (limited) ex post facto favorable decisions already handed down by state supreme courts.
I asked my lawyer about filing an Ex Post Facto claim. He’s all for it… but wants a five digit retainer just to START! Isn’t that excessive?
That is a large amount of money for most registrants, but it is not excessive due to what is involved in this type of litigation. Your state will diligently fight every challenge to registration, and it has unlimited financial resources to use against you. You can expect a long protracted battle, and if you should be granted relief, the state will almost certainly appeal.
That has been done in some jurisdictions. However, it can complicate the issue. Each Plaintiff has different facts surrounding his/her underlying conviction, e.g., date of commission, age of victim. Since it has already been determined that registration in and of itself is not facially unconstitutional, that means all the challenges will be on an “as applied” basis. More Plaintiffs mean that the case will proceed at a slower pace and that the Court’s overall analysis could be unfavorably impacted by a particular Plaintiff’s facts.
No it would not. Repeal of the AWA would only (1) remove the feds’ ability to prosecute those that travel to other jurisdictions and fail to register or keep their registrations current, and (2) remove the threat of financial penalties for states that are non-complaint. Even if the AWA were repealed, all 50 states would still have sex offender registries. However, you can be certain that no state would rush to repeal its registration laws.
Shouldn’t there be a challenge to the “one size fits all” federal law, to get these things done on an individual basis with facts of the case considered?
We agree that challenges should be made where appropriate. However, there will never be a single federal case that will bring down the registry once and for all. Registration of sex offenders is not done by the federal government. There are 50 distinctly different registry schemes in operation around the United States. Some are more punitive than others. Some registrants only report by mail for 10 years and their street address is not published on the internet. For these people, registration has not been sufficiently transformed by crazy politicians to the point that it is unconstitutional.
Don’t interpret this as endorsement of registration schemes. We firmly believe that all registration schemes should be abolished. We also agree that it would be preferable if more states utilized a risk-based approach. However, that is a policy choice for our elected officials to make. The courts do not have the authority to save us from bad policy choices made by our elected officials. They can only strike down laws that clearly violate the constitution. In that situation, it is OUR burden as the challenging party to demonstrate by the “clearest of proof” that a law is unconstitutional.
When a particular state crosses that line and registration requirements become punitive, NARSOL believes that the law should be challenged. Please understand that constitutional challenges are very expensive, because every state will vigorously defend its duly enacted laws. We would love to undertake challenges all over the United States but lack the financial resources to do so. Will you join and support us?
Registered Citizens Distance Restrictions -- US States & TerritoriesOur mission was to research, compile, and manage a reference listing of all US state and territory registered citizens distance restrictions. What follows is the results of a three month research project carried out by 30+ RSOL volunteers. We endeavored to provide as much relevant information to distance restrictions as possible; however, certainly there will be changes and more to add. This document is intended to be a living document and updated where and when laws change. The master document can be viewed here: Registered Citizens Distance Restrictions Please use the following form to submit any corrections, additions, or comments and if validated will be added to the master document. Feedback form ________________________________________ Disclaimers 1. This document is intended to be a general reference and by no means the single source of truth. It should be considered a starting place and pointer to the actual codification of law available via the individual state and territories websites. 2. Information contained here is as recent as the last updated annotation; however, even that may have been superseded by recently passed legislative sessions, bills, or acts. We have listed pending legislation that would affect the current law where known but again no guarantees are made that it or any reference in this document is error free. 3. As it is with anything in life, it is your individual responsibility to know the laws you are expected to obey.
Domestic and International Travel
The following is a collection of articles and posts dealing with the general topic of how those on the registry are impacted by laws pertinent to domestic travel, international travel, and passports. How accurate and how current the content within each piece is the responsibility of the author, not of RSOL. These links are for the purpose of providing as much information as possible on this subject. What the reader chooses to do with the information is totally up to each individual.
If you have personal stories to tell that relate to this subject, please visit our Tales from the Registry and write about your experience. Please title it “Travel” or add travel as a keyword.
eAdvocate: The Community Room: a “Travel and International Issues” section with multiple entries listed in the right hand column