The US Constitution, with the Bill of Rights, is supposed to protect life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness to ALL its citizens. However, for a certain section of the US citizenry, namely those labeled as registered sex offenders, any such rights become largely absent, with more restrictive laws being passed locally, statewide, and nationally. These people have served their time in incarceration and paid their restitution, and yet they are subjected to harsher social ostracism for decades, even for life in several states.
Let us look at how far the United States has come with the gradual chipping away of the Constitutional rights for the people labeled as sex offenders.
1st Amendment – In certain state/s, like North Carolina, it is illegal for anyone registered as a sex offender to visit social websites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Such laws further isolate these people from their family and friends who live away from them.
These people are required to disclose their identity in a church or religious places where they attend. This creates an environment of suspicion and discomfort for everyone. Moreover, such requirements infringe upon a person’s right to practice a religion freely and peaceably.
It is generally illegal for them to assemble with each other. Such restrictions stifle their voices from being heard by precluding them from organizing a protest. Social media laws also prohibit them from expressing their concerns or issues in wider social forum.
Generally, there is a lack of fact-base and honest discussion in news media regarding the sex offender issue. Meanwhile, few cases are hyped to bring about even harsher laws across the board in the registry. This only reflects the lack of freedom of press in a broader spectrum for people in the registry.
2nd Amendment – It is generally illegal for people with a felony to possess a firearm, which precludes them from exercising their constitutional right to protect themselves, their family, and their property using firearms.
3rd Amendment – N/A
4th Amendment – Apart from their regular sentences in incarceration, people convicted of a sex crime usually serve additional sentence in a form of Post Release Supervision for many years which is similar to probation. People who are in Post Release Supervision are subjected to any searches and seizures without the need for a warrant or a probable cause. This is apart from the sex offender registry itself which sets its own restrictions on a place of residence, work, social associations, etc.
5th Amendment – People who are in the Sex Offender Registry have already served their mandatory minimum sentence in incarceration. The registry, with its inherent restrictions and requirements, is a form of additional penalty. However, decades or even lifetime of additional punishment is not considered as a double jeopardy or a cruel & unusual punishment. This reflects gross injustice against them in the society.
Sex offenders are also subjected to become a witness against themselves (http://mynorthwest.com/244967/court-state-violated-fifth-amendment-rights-of-sex-offender-steven-powell/)
6th & 7th Amendments – The notion of sex crime is such that people are generally predisposed to crude preconceived notions regardless of a crime or whether any victim was involved. Sex offender registry has become so broad that petty offenses like public urination, public nudity, underage teenage consensual sex, underage teens having their nude photograph in their phone, adult consensual sex in a beach, etc. can all land someone in the sex offender registry (https://www.hrw.org/report/2007/09/11/no-easy-answers/sex-offender-laws-us). With the overwhelming negatively in the society, people labeled as sex offenders are more likely to be convicted in a trial and receive harsher judgment.
8th Amendment – Bail system in this country is a multi-billion dollar business, and bails are generally handed out in our courts like candies during Halloween. People accused of a sex crime are generally more likely to receive higher bonds due to fear and social stigma.
9th Amendment – Those who are in the sex offender registry are restricted to travel freely. They need prior notification and permission to travel. More restrictions are imposed upon those under supervision or probation.
In the states like Florida where sex offenders are marked in their driver’s license, they are more likely to face discrimination even in minor incident such as a routine traffic stop or while booking a hotel room. Also with the recent expansion of the International Megan Law, sex offender passports can be marked. This has opened new doors of restrictions or discrimination against sex offenders abroad, even physical harm to them and their families traveling with them.
10th – 27th Amendments – N/A, except for the infringement upon the right to vote in some States, especially those under probation or supervision.
Laws should be based on facts and not on fear, paranoia, or propaganda.
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