Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Action Item: California, Georgia and Nebraska Already Ruled it Unconstitutional and Now New Hampshire Has a Court Challenge, What About Virginia?

First…… what the law is in Virginia: 

§ 9.1-903. Virginia Sex Offender Registration procedures
G. Any person required to register shall reregister either in person or electronically with the local law-enforcement agency where his residence is located within 30 minutes following any change of the electronic mail address information, any instant message, chat or other Internet communication name or identity information that the person uses or intends to use, whether within or without the Commonwealth.  

This statute applies to both Non-Violent and Violent Offenders (all the Registered Sex Offenders-RSO’s in Virginia) NOT just those under VA-DOC Probation, EVERY ONE! 

Remember….there is NO “electronic” option for Virginia’s Registered Sex Offenders so even though the statute says it, doesn’t mean it’s a viable option.  

In fact the Virginia State Police-VSP has refused to extend the 30 minutes to 3 "business" days or to implement an electronic system when presented with legislation (2011- HB1628 and 2012- HB416 ).  

So……..EVERY RSO in Virginia must get in their car and drive to the closest VSP Barracks that are only open Mon-Fri 8:30-am4:00pm (no evenings, no weekends and no holidays) and the closest location could be either 30 minutes or 4 hours away. Good luck making the “30 minute” window! 

OK…….now this is what is happening in New Hampshire right now:

Sex Offenders' Right to Anonymity at Stake in NH, April 27, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (CN) - Challenging a law that requires New Hampshire sex offenders to register their online aliases, a civil liberties group told a federal judge that the overbroad requirements could choke harmless speech, like giving restaurant reviews on Yelp.

Representing a New Hampshire man "convicted of a registerable offense years ago," the ACLU brought its federal complaint on April 21 over revisions that the state made six years ago to its registration requirements for offenders.

House Bill 1640, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2009, added a requirement for registered sex offenders to regularly report to the police and divulge any "name, aliases, electronic mail addresses, and any instant messaging, chat, or other Internet communication name identities."

Given that New Hampshire's registration statute "fails to distinguish between sex offenders who pose a high risk to the public," the New Hampshire ACLU says that asking for online user names could have a chilling effect on Internet free speech.

"If First Amendment protections are to enjoy enduring relevance in the twenty-first century, they must continue to apply with full force to speech conducted online," the complaint states. 

The ACLU says it is overbroad to have each of the more than 2,700 New Hampshire citizens currently registered as sex offenders in New Hampshire to report all online usernames regardless of whether the website is related to any crimes, or if the sex offense was related at all to online activity.

 "It essentially bans online anonymous speech that is innocent that has nothing to do with criminality," the ACLU of New Hampshire's legal director, Gilles Bissonette, said in an interview.

Bissonette added that online identifiers include "any account where [a person] is permitted to set up a user profile."

Any email address and essentially any handle use to engage in online communication, including online political groups, book and restaurant review sites, or online medical blog sites," Bissonette added.

 According to the complaint, New Hampshire authorities have been unable to uncover criminal activity in the 19 times the law has been applied to access records in its six years of existence. In that same time, 32 individuals have been charged for failing to disclose their online usernames.

The New Hampshire ACLU believes that the law is too broad and that there is solid precedence for their case, similar laws have been struck down in California , Georgia and Nebraska.

"The harm is substantial," Bissonette said. "We have a first amendment right to anonymous speech and anonymous association. The fact that they have to disclose accounts that have nothing to with criminality kills innocent expression. The harm is real, and the harm is substantial."

A spokesperson for the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office declined to comment.


So why not challenge the Virginia law????????? 

Ask the ACLU of Virginia to step up and defend Freedom of Speech for our 21,500+ RSO’s. The Virginia statute applies to every RSO instead of those who have a higher re-offense rate. The Virginia statute has nothing to do with criminality but it does create a “30 minute trap” to charge most RSO’s with a new Felony. 

Send the ACLU of Virginia an email today! and 

Mary Devoy