11 January 2013

Sex Offender Registry

The Iowa Court of Appeals has fended off another attack on the sex offender registry in State v. Iowa District Court for Story County, No. 2-998/12-0024, filed 9 January 2013. In this case the District Court modified a sex offender registry requirement and the State of Iowa filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the appellate courts to find the district court's act illegal--which it did. Having been involved in sex offender registry cases, with a case on appeal at the moment, this issue is of interest. The appeal courts of this state to date have rebuffed all challenges to the sex offender registry using various arguments and upholding the legislation passed by our esteemed legislature. It is clear to me being familiar with many judges and various district courts in the fifth judicial district that there is a conflict between the district courts and the appeal courts on the issue of the sex offender registry. The district courts and the attorneys practicing criminal law in them are well aware that the sex offender registry is dysfunctional, mean, and ineffective. As an example, we have had one case in Jasper County where a man was arrested because he lived within 2,000 feet of a school. The sheriff went to his door and arrested him, taking him to jail, and charging him with a violation of the requirement that he not live within 2,000 feet of a school or other place designated in the Iowa Code. The man is confined to a wheelchair. In other instances we have men attempting to live in tents at various spots in the county, because, in Newton, if the 2,000 foot rule applies to you, you cannot live within the city limits. Those of us who are actually interacting with the people restricted from living within 2,000 of a kiddy facility know full well that this law causes an unwarranted hardship on those subject to it, causes an extremely high degree of bitterness from those to which it applies, and is ineffective. In Polk County the registration requirement has created ghettos of sex offenders most of whom are harmless and burdens them with one more impediment to living a normal life which presumably is the goal of all penal legislation (normal meaning crime free). The courts should begin chipping away at these sexual offender registry statutes. This may be difficult considering the level of fear that has permeated the public over sex offenders, but it would be the right thing to do.