NJ Supreme Court Tosses Local Laws Restricting Residency of Sex Offenders

For once, Megan's Law has accomplished something positive in the area of civil liberties for sex offenders. The New Jersey Supreme Court has thrown out two muncipal ordinances restricting where sex offenders can live. The opinion is available here (pdf). Shorter version: Megan's Law trumps the local ordinances.

Under Megan's Law, convicted sex offenders may only live in a residence approved by a parole officer, and must notify authorities when they change addresses and employment. The law forbids anyone from using an offender's criminal record to deny housing.

Both New Jersey towns have ordinances that prohibit sex offenders convicted of offenses against minors from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds and day care centers.

118 other NJ towns have similar laws, and I presume those are invalid as well. [More...]

As the ACLU says:

"We continue to feel these laws are counterproductive and don't accomplish their purpose," Corrado said Thursday. "There's no real connection between limiting where someone can live and a sex offense occurring in a park or public place."

The towns are expected go back to the legislature to try and expand Megan's Law.

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    said in the open thread (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu May 07, 2009 at 05:10:08 PM EST
    this always seemed silly and unjust to me.
    like they cant walk from where ever they live to the park or playground?

    Do you favor permitting convicted (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by oculus on Thu May 07, 2009 at 06:04:19 PM EST
    sex offenders to be @ the park or school?  Do you have children?

    I don't (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by MrConservative on Thu May 07, 2009 at 06:43:32 PM EST
    think they should be permitted to loiter there.  But the laws barring residence in such a massive area are ridiculous.  In many cases it means there's practically nowhere to live. So, I dunno, would you rather have homeless sex offenders wondering about?  And it's not as if everyone on the sex offender registry has a heinous offense.  One of the biggest flaws of the sex offender registry is it's inclusion of many non-serious offenders.

    this is exactly correct (5.00 / 0) (#8)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 08, 2009 at 08:59:07 AM EST
    I personally know a 13 year old who is fighting to get off the list which he certainly does not deserve to be on.
    thats another story.
    but the idea that you can follow someone around for the rest of their life because they did something wrong is just, well, wrong.

    like I said before, if they are dangerous, lock them up.  in their own house if necessary.
    if they are not dangerous and it is just being done to salve someone discomfort with what they did, its wrong.  leave them alone and let them come back into the society.


    now I am for sure (none / 0) (#9)
    by Iamme on Fri May 08, 2009 at 12:46:24 PM EST
    Am I really reading this?  I get the sense its more about the rights of the offenders.  These people gave up their rights when they attacked helpless children.  Let them go where they want? Have you lost your mind?  I have a daughter and I damn sure dont want a sex offender anywhere near her school.  

    Will they do it again?  I dont know!  And there in lies the rub.  I dont know.  I do know that they already did it once.  I like baseball I have been to a game that means I might go again.  I like hamburgers that means I will probably go get another one.  If I have molested a child I might not do it again but for sure I am more likely to do it again than someone who never has.

    Are you people actually defending someone that raped or molested someones child?

    If you are would you let them live in your house or next door to you?


    We're defending freedom and liberty... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Fri May 08, 2009 at 12:50:09 PM EST
    these lofty ideals don't come free...they entail risk.

    A free society must always err on the side of freedom and liberty.  Once an offender serves their sentence and is released, we must let them live, otherwise don't let them out...or just lynch them.

    People can and will always be sick and depraved...our systems and institutions need not be as well.


    I have no opinion (none / 0) (#11)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 08, 2009 at 01:00:58 PM EST
    on your reading comprehension.  
    but then you probably would not want to live next door to a homo either, right.
    maybe we should have then register also.

    Personally.... (none / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Fri May 08, 2009 at 01:06:38 PM EST
    its the cats running around doing background checks on their neighbors that scare me...I can't even fathom such behavior....freakin' creepy.

    WOW (none / 0) (#14)
    by Iamme on Fri May 08, 2009 at 01:13:15 PM EST
    I am finding it hard to even breathe right now.  Defending freedom and liberty at the expense of our children.  Its hard we must make sacrifices.  Sacrifice our children so the molesters get their freedoms back.

    Being gay has no bearing here.  Stop throwing the blanket around and focus on the issue.  The issue is specific to sex offenders.  Being gay means you have not molested a child therefore live where you want.

    Sick. Sick. Sick.  You put sex offenders rights before that of a child.


    You understand... (none / 0) (#18)
    by kdog on Fri May 08, 2009 at 01:25:20 PM EST
    that not every registered sex offender was convicted of harming a child, right?

    You understand these registries make mistakes, right?

    Sounds to me nothing less than the death penalty will suffice for you...fair enough, grab your noose if it means that much to ya, I prefer that to institutionalizing tyranny.


    Wow again (none / 0) (#20)
    by Iamme on Fri May 08, 2009 at 01:32:28 PM EST
    Did I say noose or death penalty?  Did I say I want to know that we know where they are?  Yes.
    Did I say I dont want them living near a school.  Yes.  

    As far as your argument goes on the registries  and mistakes.  

    Here is my argument to you.  These people were not put on any list to be registered simply because they were hanging out at Starbucks having a latte.  There were involved in the sexual exploitation or molestation of a child.

    When childrens rights are put behind that of the people that abused them we are truly doomed as a country.


    Thats the thing... (none / 0) (#26)
    by kdog on Fri May 08, 2009 at 02:07:18 PM EST
    once they're out of prison they are supposed to be free...free means you can't tell them where they can live.

    My point was if you don't wanna let them re-enter society...may as well hang 'em.

    Besides...do you really think these stupid 2500 ft. ordinances and such really protect any kids?  I think they are designed to make paranoid parents feel better and nothing more...and I have no patience for such paranoia-stroking laws that serve no real purpose.  The best and only way to protect your kids is to watch over your kids and stop worrying about the boogey-man on the registry who may have done nothing more than urinate in an alley.


    your opinion (none / 0) (#28)
    by Iamme on Fri May 08, 2009 at 02:39:02 PM EST
    I get updates all the time from registered sex offenders in my area so yeah I like it.  It does serve a purpose.  If you know where and how many are in your area it helps to keep your guard up.  So there is a purpose.  If you dont have children why do you care what the law is?  Again you fall on the side of the criminals.  I do not.  Are your rights being violated?  Are you a sex offender?

    I care deeply about.. (none / 0) (#29)
    by kdog on Fri May 08, 2009 at 02:55:08 PM EST
    individual rights even if I'm not effected...because one day they might come for me and mine.  Sex offenders today, all offenders tomorrow.

    No kids of my own, but several young nieces I love like daughters...It has never even dawned on my to do a neighborhood background check...when I'm babysitting I watch them and that seems to be plenty good enough...no need to compile a neighborhood dossier.


    not only do they make mistakes (none / 0) (#21)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 08, 2009 at 01:33:34 PM EST
    but people get put on these lists for totally stupid reasons.
    I personally know a kid who, because he and his cousin 2 years younger were caught playing "doctor" by the girls fundamentalist father, he is on one of those lists.  this was 6 years ago and he and his family are still dealing with the grief, expense and shame of it.
    he, and I have no doubt many many others, do not deserve to be on this list.  no one was raped.  no one was harmed.  the girl admitted it was her idea but because the boy was older and the father was a kindred spirit of that commenter (and a cop) the boy, who is an honor student and star athlete and a genuinely good hearted sole btw, will probably be dealing with this idiocy for years to come.

    compelling argument (none / 0) (#23)
    by Iamme on Fri May 08, 2009 at 01:46:53 PM EST
    Here is where we divulge.  It boils down to this.  

    You would rather spare 1 person from the problems and allow 99 others to commit the crime again.  I on the other hand would like to put 1 person through a little extra "idiocy" so that the 99 others who deserve their treatment get it.

    The needs of the 99 children who will not be harmed outweigh those incoveniences of one person.  If he is such a good guy go ask him.  

    If we banished all this now and you were free and clear but 99 children would be molested by a repeat offender I wonder what his answer would be.


    please, keep talking (none / 0) (#24)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 08, 2009 at 01:48:20 PM EST
    have you noticed everyone else on your side of the argument has headed for the hills?

    Here is one thing we both agree on (none / 0) (#25)
    by Iamme on Fri May 08, 2009 at 01:53:31 PM EST
    We are both passionate about our beliefs.  I dont really care who is or is not on my side.

    actually that comment perfectly (none / 0) (#15)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 08, 2009 at 01:16:18 PM EST
    illustrates the limited mentality of the standard arguments for this sort of stuff stuff.
    somewhere I heard that if a person pays for their crime they should be allowed to at least have a shot at reentering society without being hounded for the rest of their life by people like that idiot commenter.  
    also if that person is on the opposite side of the issue from me I am even more certain I am right.

    you are still off base (none / 0) (#17)
    by Iamme on Fri May 08, 2009 at 01:23:35 PM EST
    Pay your debt but because of the crime you committed you cannot live near children.  You have a problem with that?  I oppose your view!  Yes I do.  Apparently you dont have children or you would take this position.  

    Limited mentality.  I am for anything that protects my child.  So yeah I guess I am limited by that fact.  My childs right come before any convicted sex offenders.

    This is not about the broader intellectual thought process which you speak.  This thread is about sex offenders and their rights.  They lost theirs when they chose to violate those of a childs.  

    Clearly you are concrete in your position.  I am in mine.  I only hope there are more people with children during your generation so we can do the right thing for the children.

    I always know I win when the name calling begins.


    I would imagine you (none / 0) (#19)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 08, 2009 at 01:26:41 PM EST
    probably "win" a lot right?

    If by "many non-serious offenders" (none / 0) (#27)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 08, 2009 at 02:32:16 PM EST
    you mean some small %, perhaps a fraction of a % even, then you would be correct.

    where offenses take place (2.00 / 0) (#6)
    by diogenes on Thu May 07, 2009 at 10:16:58 PM EST
    Offenses often take place in the perp's home after a period of grooming.  Much easier to find victims to groom and "have them stop by after school on the way home" if you live next door to a school.  Most of the time perps don't rape a stranger in the bushes of a park.  Maybe 2500 feet is too far, but a suspicious number of sex offenders I see try to live NEXT DOOR to day cares or schools; surely not coincidence.
    Since these were local laws anyway then why didn't all the convicted sex offenders in New Jersey just move to towns where enlightened liberals live who would have welcomed them to live next door?

    Well (5.00 / 0) (#7)
    by Claw on Fri May 08, 2009 at 12:50:05 AM EST
    I guess we should probably prohibit DUI/public intox offenders from living near any establishment that serves booze.  I'm thinking restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and liquor stores.  That oughta keep 'em sober, right?  Many sex offenders have cars, or at least have access to public transport.  And if they're really determined to re-offend, they will.
    The other problem with these blanket laws is that there are many, many different kinds of sex offender.  Statutory rapists don't snatch children from playgrounds.  Drunk, fratboy rapists don't troll schools in Ice-Cream trucks.  These laws don't do anything but make life more difficult for the offender.

    Actually... (none / 0) (#32)
    by diogenes on Fri May 08, 2009 at 04:50:12 PM EST
    In fact, many people on probation are not allowed to go into bars for just this reason.

    if the people on these lists (none / 0) (#33)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 08, 2009 at 04:54:25 PM EST
    were on probation that might be a different story.
    thats not the case.  it goes on forever.
    again, IMO, if they are a danger put them under house arrest.  if they are just being persecuted to make paranoids feel better, leave them alone.

    de facto lifetime probation (none / 0) (#34)
    by diogenes on Sun May 10, 2009 at 04:42:19 PM EST
    Sex offender registries are a form of de facto lifetime probation/post-release supervision.  I guess that if you don't think that such post-release supervision is reasonable, then there's no point in arguing.

    I'm glad this is starting to happen (none / 0) (#3)
    by phat on Thu May 07, 2009 at 06:20:55 PM EST
    It's a pretty basic civil liberty.

    Perhaps (none / 0) (#5)
    by catmandu on Thu May 07, 2009 at 09:53:38 PM EST
    sex offenders should remain in prison.  Rape completely destroys the life of the victim.
    Its about time we got serious on serious crime and stop chasing after pot smokers and hookers.

    You clearly (none / 0) (#30)
    by Claw on Fri May 08, 2009 at 03:05:48 PM EST
    Care passionately for your child, as well you should.  But you also, just as clearly, have a very limited understanding of who has to register as a sex offender and how well these laws work.  
    A small percentage of offenders are considered high risk for reoffense by psychological professionals; in that they really do have a very difficult time around children.  But you can get on the list for something as stupid as urinating in public, or something as serious (still having nothing to do with children) as date rape.  Most sex offenders don't have any interest in children.  So let's go back to my earlier DUI analogy.  Should we pass laws prohibiting DUI offenders from living near liquor stores, grocery stores, restaurants, and bars?  Unless you're a MADD mother, you'd probably answer no.  If they're alcoholics, they'll find a way to get drunk.  Some will then get behind the wheel.  Point is, people bent on reoffending or unable to keep themselves from reoffending, will probably find a way to reoffend.  Making their lives infinitely more difficult AFTER they've paid their debt to society doesn't do anything but make them more likely to reoffend.

    btw (none / 0) (#31)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 08, 2009 at 04:40:52 PM EST
    there is a couple of very interesting excellent and disturbing examinations of this subject on film.

    The Woodsman

    One last question: did you have moral concerns about doing the film, as a father?

    "A woman told me that she didn't want to see this movie, 'as a mother, it's the last place on earth I want to go', she said. All I can say, this is not a voyeuristic or sensationalist film. We're not trying to stir up controversy. It's about a sick guy who's trying to get well, and it's just one man's story. I think this is a deep problem in our society, and I don't know that the movie offers any answers. But I do know that it can't be swept under the rug. You can't pretend it doesn't exist. Whether it's the Catholic Church moving priests to different parishes or whatever, that cannot happen any more."



    There are only a handful of films that have a distinct polarizing affect on the audience--A Clockwork Orange, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, and I would even lump in American Beauty--these are movies you either get, or you don't. And if you don't get it, you will hate it. Open minded viewers need only apply, and that's certainly the case with "Happiness." I remember leaving the theater absolutely shocked, and not just because of the events on screen. I was shocked that I found the movie so intelligent and oddly entertaining. The actors surely must have felt that, after reading the screenplay. And there are some big actors in this--veterans like Ben Gazzara, Louise Lasser, Elizabeth Ashley, mixing with new talent like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Camryn Manheim, Dylan Baker, Lara Flynn Boyle, etc.

    The subject matter is truly unsettling--a parental figure, respected in his community, does some horrible things, and this is the main reason why so many people have a hard time with this movie. Did this material really need to be examined in modern cinema? Well, yes--in the same way that David Lynch had to explore it in Blue Velvet. Happiness is a masterpiece of irony (even in the title), and finds humor in the most unusual and downright bizarre circumstances. You will not see another movie like it. Guaranteed. And fair warning--you could very well despise it. And it's probably a fair estimate that its writer/director, Todd Solondz, doesn't give a damn.

    Well (none / 0) (#35)
    by DancingOpossum on Mon May 11, 2009 at 11:48:02 AM EST
    I don't think the fact that I disliked "American Beauty" means that I'm close-minded or "don't get it." I did get it, thanks, I just didn't find "it" particularly compelling.

    That said, I thought "The Woodsman," which I saw when it first came out, excellent. Both actors do a sensational job, and Bacon is particularly good. I liked its pacing and its refusal to pander to the audience. I haven't seen "Happiness" but I have found Solondz leaves me cold -- still, I'll reserve judgment until (if) I do see it.

    As for the subject of the thread (none / 0) (#36)
    by DancingOpossum on Mon May 11, 2009 at 11:50:34 AM EST
    I think these laws restricting the movements of sex offenders are  horrendous and am glad to see them starting to be overturned. Too many people are "freed" from prison only to find that their prison record pretty much kills every attempt at reintegrating into society (which is supposed to be the point, right?) and for "sex offenders" -- which, as others have pointed out, covers a huge range of behavior -- it's even worse. There were reports in Florida last year about sex offenders sleeping under a bridge because they couldn't find homes to rent. This is better, why??