When it comes to sex offenders and laws that punish/govern them, it isn’t often that we can report good news. Here’s one tiny victory —
For those of you who care about someone convicted of a sex offense, you already know that our society is especially unforgiving of such offenders and tend to lump everyone in the same boat. Also, knee-jerk reaction is sufficient to cause laws to be passed which are highly suspect in terms of constitutionality and effectiveness. Yes, legislators seem not to care about such things when it comes to sex offenders.
At the legislature this year, Senate Bill 1162, sponsored by Sen. Borrelli and Representative Barton, proposed to require sex offenders who own any type of electronic device (iPad, iPod, cellphone, TV etc.) to purchase and install an application/program which would have to be approved by DPS in order to allow the software to live-time monitor all email content and track exactly what the offender is doing on the Internet! The bill was to apply to any person who is required to register as a sex offender for the entire time he is required to register (LIFE!!).
As you may know, sex offenders who are on supervision or who must register are required to provide their email addresses and passwords, as well as their identifying names that they use on the Internet, but there is no program installed on their own device which live-time tracks and monitors the content of their emails or their searches on the Internet, etc
We testified against this bill and strenuously objected to the fact that it was an ex post facto punishment for those who are not on any type of supervision, but who are still required to register as a sex offender. We also questioned whether people who are on supervision for a sex offense, but whose offense had nothing to do with the Internet, could have this requirement applied to them. As for people currently under supervision (parole, community supervision, probation) for a sex crime that does involve the Internet, we are fairly certain that the court would probably uphold this invasive condition.
Fortunately, even the Adult Probation Department and the Superior Court Admin opposed this bill. They were actually concerned that offenders already have enough monthly fees to pay for supervision, electronic monitoring, etc., that having to pay for these apps (one company representative claimed that his company would charge $30/month, but he didn’t say if that covered just one device, or if it would cost $30/month for each device that might need to be monitored). They testified that they would rather see offenders have the funds available to pay restitution to victims, etc. But at least they were opposed. They also wondered who would pay for monitoring all those emails and enforcing this law when it was violated.
We were prepared to point out to the legislative committee that this was a gross violation of a person’s 4th and 1st Amendment Rights — and, yes, sex offenders to have these rights, especially when they are no longer under any type of criminal justice supervision. But just prior to the beginning of the testimony, it was announced that the sponsors of the bill only wanted it to be applied to people on criminal justice supervision. Still, we let them know that if it was legal at all, it would only be legal against persons who were under supervision AND whose crimes involved the Internet.
A vote was taken on the bill and the vote was 3-3, so it failed. It should have failed 6-0, but even one of the Democrats on the committee voted in favor of it. Legislators just love to vote on things that negatively impact sex offenders, even when the proposals violate the Arizona and U.S. Constitution.
The bill is very likely “dead” for this year, but you can bet it will be reintroduced in future sessions.
If you are represented in your district by Sen. Borrelli or Rep. Barton, let them know that this was a bad bill that should never have been contemplated and that you hope they won’t reintroduce it again in the future!