The California Supreme Court declined to take another look at a ruling which required mandatory lifetime sex offender registration for a specific sex crime. With a vote of 4-3, the Supreme Court will keep a specific decision in place which requires that a person convicted of non-forcible oral copulation with a minor is mandated under law to register as a sex offender. Such registration prohibits sex offenders from residing near parks and schools. The ruling, in effect, reinstated a California law from 1947 and reversed a Supreme Court ruling from 2006 which declared the 1947 law discriminatory.
In the 2006 decision, former Justice Joyce Kennard stated another California law provides less-harsh penalties for those convicted of the crime. Kennard believed the distinction between the two laws was based on the fact that all oral sex acts—even between consenting adults—was a crime in 1947 in the state of California. A law legalizing consensual gay sex acts in 1975 negated the 1947 law. Other Supreme Court Justices believed there were legitimate reasons for treating non-forcible oral intercourse with a minor in a much harsher manner than between consenting adults.
Is the Sex Offender Registry in California Too Big to Manage?
The issue came to the California Supreme Court after the state board which oversees the sex offender registration laws recommended that only high-risk offenders (sexually violent predators and kidnappers) should be required to register as a sex offender for life. The board believes the sex offender registry in California is simply too big to manage. The board also believes the current system does not allow for differentiation between those not likely to re-offend and those who pose a continuing risk to society. In support of these beliefs, the board points to the fact that of the nearly 100,000 sex offenders, the last sex crime of more than 900 of those was more than 55 years ago.
Assumptions Regarding Sex Offender Registry
Although public opinion is not on the side of relaxing sex offender registration rules, some lawmakers and law enforcement officials supported the Board’s recommendations. The board believes the sex offender registry was created based on certain assumptions which are no longer valid. These assumptions include:
- Nearly 95 percent of sex crimes which have been solved by law enforcement were committed by those who were not on the sex offender registry;
- The majority of sex crimes are not committed by those who have been previously identified as a sex offender;
- Sex offenders vary widely in their reoffend risk, and
- The sex offender registry has not been responsible for a decrease in the overall number of sexual offenses.
The members of the board believed that the changes they provided to the Supreme Court would not jeopardize public safety in any way. District Attorney Mike Ramsey points to the case of a man whose last sex offense was more than 40 years ago, yet he and his wife were recently denied housing based on his mandatory lifetime spot on the sex offender registry. Bay Area psychologist Tom Tobin, believes those offenders who are deemed low-risk after a decade on the registry should be removed. California Supreme Court Justices obviously did not agree, and the mandatory lifetime registration will remain in place, at least for now.
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