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WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

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WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

Old 12-27-10, 05:06 PM
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WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

http://thelegalwatchdog.blogspot.com...-not-just.html

Sex offender registries: They’re not just for sex offenders anymore
Our nation’s preoccupation with tracking sex offenders comes at a high cost. Between the fifty states and the federal government, we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on sex offender registries each year, in addition to the billions spent on incarceration and community supervision. However, these registries aren’t all they’re cracked-up to be, in part because they’re flooded with useless information. For each violent rapist, a registry may contain dozens of teenagers who had consensual sex with younger teens, and dozens of other teens who were convicted of “sexting,” urinating in public, or similar behavior. But, perhaps the biggest problem with sex offender registries is that they’re not just for sex-related crimes anymore.

In addition to dramatically expanding what constitutes a “sex crime,” many states have boldly crossed the line and require registration for crimes that aren’t remotely related to sex, pornography, or even public urination. An excellent example of this trend can be found in the Wisconsin case of State v. Smith, where Smith, a 17-year-old boy, made another 17-year-old boy go with him to collect a debt. Smith was convicted of felony false imprisonment for this behavior and, because his “prisoner” was a minor, the state forced Smith to register as a sex offender. (Smith, also 17-years-old, was not considered a minor. Wisconsin considers accused 17-year-olds to be adults.)

Everyone agreed that Smith’s behavior was completely non-sexual. In fact, his obvious motivation in taking his fellow 17-year-old to collect the debt was purely financial. Despite this, Wisconsin’s highest court rejected Smith’s commonsense argument that “the purpose of the sex offender registry is to protect the public from sex offenders.” Instead, the court held, even people accused of non-sex crimes can be forced to register, because it could assist law enforcement.

To their credit, two justices—Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson—dissented from this absurd decision. They made what should have been obvious points:

First, the court’s decision harms the public interest. Sex offender registries become useless when they are “clogged by offenders” who were never even accused, let alone convicted, of a sex crime or even a quasi-sex crime.

Second, there is no “rational basis” for branding this 17-year-old boy as a sex offender for his completely non-sexual behavior. Instead, this is an “arbitrary action of government,” and violates Smith’s constitutional rights.

Third, with this kind of overeager, irrational government action, no one is safe. The dissenters warned that, under the court’s reasoning, even traffic offenders will soon be swept into the registry, because doing so would “advance the purpose of assisting law enforcement,” thus satisfying the court’s new test.


This Wisconsin case seems to be part of a larger theme. We elect politicians to government—Wisconsin elects not only its legislators but also its high court justices—and then these politicians act in absurd ways that often go unnoticed by most of us. In this example, the legislature drafted a ridiculously broad law, the high court rubber-stamped it, and then the legislature failed to correct the problem after the fact.

However, today’s political climate—which consists of billion dollar annual deficits and a somewhat anti-government sentiment in the air—provides the perfect opportunity for state legislators around the country to bring reason back to government. Now is the time for them to use examples like State v. Smith to try to reform these overly inclusive, irrational sex offender laws. We’d all be better off for their efforts.
A shining moment for my state.

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Old 12-27-10, 05:08 PM
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Re: WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

This has been going on for awhile with these. Eventually (maybe already) there will be so many people on sex offender sites that don't belong there that the actual purpose of those sites is defeated.
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Old 12-27-10, 05:25 PM
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Re: WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

Yeah, I read about people getting added to a list for public urination. I don't think that's a sex offense either but you could at least argue it's lewd, this is just silly.
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Old 12-27-10, 06:00 PM
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Re: WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

Well, maybe he's a sex offender and just hasn't been caught. So probably good to be safe.
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Old 12-27-10, 06:22 PM
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Re: WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

They should just rename it "Santa's Naughty List," and give them all a big lump of coal.
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Old 12-27-10, 06:39 PM
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Re: WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

I can think of a few people who post around here who should be added to that list.
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Old 12-27-10, 06:45 PM
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Re: WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

Originally Posted by OldDude View Post
They should just rename it "Santa's Naughty List,"
Sex offenders have been trying to get a hold of that list for years!
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Old 12-27-10, 07:59 PM
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Re: WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

I'm usually not a fan of Abrahamson or Bradley but they are certainly correct this time. Unfortunately, this can happen when the wacky types of conservatives get in (as has happened in Wisconsin).
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Old 12-28-10, 10:22 AM
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Re: WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

Originally Posted by movielib View Post
I'm usually not a fan of Abrahamson or Bradley but they are certainly correct this time. Unfortunately, this can happen when the wacky types of conservatives get in (as has happened in Wisconsin).
With heavy emphasis on the wacky. This isn't even a conservative/liberal thing. It is just so stupid and counterproductive. Setting aside the obvious problem of punishing people twice (after they have already served time for their crime, they are ostracized and can't live many places), adding the statutory rapists, public urinaters and now this guy makes the list completely useless. Well, it does have the use of making tons of people scared and leery of their neighbors for no good reason.

I told my dad recently that more than people I agree with ideologically, I just want competent people in the state legislator. This is a perfect example of why. I don’t live in WI, but we have a number of laws like this that just don’t make any sense no matter your political persuasion.
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Old 12-28-10, 06:13 PM
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Re: WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

My senior year of college it was explained to me the things that can land you on the California sex offender list and it scared the hell out of me. There were like 20 things on the list and I'd done 3 of them. Streaking, nude on a public beach, and mooning can all get you on the sexual offender list. I was fucking blown away. What the fuck is wrong with streaking? Do you know how much of it goes on on college campuses? I wonder if anyone has ever actually been charged and put on the list for streaking? That would be completely fucked up.
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Old 12-28-10, 06:18 PM
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Re: WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

Originally Posted by Mabuse View Post
My senior year of college it was explained to me the things that can land you on the California sex offender list and it scared the hell out of me. There were like 20 things on the list and I'd done 3 of them.
"You just made the list, buddy."

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Old 12-28-10, 07:43 PM
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Re: WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

Originally Posted by Mabuse View Post
My senior year of college it was explained to me the things that can land you on the California sex offender list and it scared the hell out of me. There were like 20 things on the list and I'd done 3 of them.
All I can say is, if sex with a camel makes me a sex offender, then lock me up and put me on yer damn list!
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Old 12-28-10, 07:59 PM
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Re: WI Supreme Court: Sex offender registries not just for sex offenders anymore

Originally Posted by Mabuse View Post
What the fuck is wrong with streaking? Do you know how much of it goes on on college campuses? I wonder if anyone has ever actually been charged and put on the list for streaking? That would be completely fucked up.
I am 100% sure that's already happened.
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