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Friday, August 28, 2015

Is the Virginia State Police (VSP) Forcing People Who Should Not Have to Register, to Register (as Sex Offenders) Under § 18.2-67.4?


An RSO who has been emailing me for years recently shared the best news ever! 

The Virginia State Police removed him from the VSP Sex Offender Registry website; he would no longer need to register as a Non-Violent Offender for a 2009 conviction, he received a letter stating this from the VSP after a long drawn out court petition. 

Now, you might be thinking 2009 to 2015 that’s NOT 15 years, the minimum time (per 2008 retroactive change by the VA Legislature) required for a Non-Violent Offender to register before a petition is allowed to be filed in court.  

You would be correct. 

You see this branded man should NEVER have been forced to register as a Non-Violent Sex Offender in the first place.
 

 
He was convicted of § 18.2-67.4 Sexual Battery with a plea agreement (as more than 94% of criminal charges are settled). 

§ 18.2-67.4 Sexual Battery does NOT require registration as a Sex Offender in Virginia. 

Now back in 2007 when my family was faced with a false accusation my family member who was facing life plus 20 years for a crime that never occurred, the Hanover Asst. County Commonwealth’s Attorney offered him an Alford plea to § 18.2-67.4 Sexual Battery he was told he’d have to register for a minimum of 10 years (increased in 2008 to 15 years by retroactive Legislative mandate) before he could petition for removal, he had 5 minutes to decide if he accepted the deal and if he didn’t he was told Hanover would release his photo, name and the 2  felony changes (that carried a life plus 20 year sentence) to the local 6PM news. If that happened we’d never make it to a trial, as he would lose his job, our health insurance, we would lose our home and we’d be unable to pay for the attorney to get us to trial and in the end he still risked life plus 20 years again for a crime that never happened. 

We had no idea that § 18.2-67.4 did not require registration as a Sex Offender, no one told us that (not our attorney, the Asst. C.A. or the judge). No surprise, my family member took the deal and he was able to come home that day but he became a Non-Violent Sex Offender posted on the VSP Registry, the National Registry and copied by many, many websites around the country and the world.  

The RSO I’ve been emailing with who was convicted in 2009 was NOT told he’d have to register as a Sex Offender by the Virginia Commonwealth Attorney or the judge. Registration is NOT in the statute and registration was NOT part of his plea agreement.  

So how did he become a Non-Violent Registrant on the VSP Registry for the last 6 years? 

Because the Virginia State Police took it upon themselves to come knocking 2 weeks after his plea deal was reached (remember registration must be done within 3 days of a conviction) and demanded he register. 

His Richmond attorney told the VSP the man did not have to register and yet the VSP forced him to do so under the threat of arrest for failing to comply.  

So for the last 6 years he worked to get this unjust and I believe illegal requirement lifted. In some of the documentation I’ve read on his petition the current C.A advised his new attorney there was a recent “change in law” that could help him get removed and just a few weeks ago he received the letter I first mentioned above and now he is no longer listed on the VSP Registry. I have no idea what that change in law was or is but I wonder if it even exists. 

The Virginia State Police ignored Virginia Code and the plea deal to strong-arm a Virginian into registering publicly as a pervert, a predator and by most people’s incorrect assumption a pedophile. It took the man 6 years and his own money to undue what should have NEVER been done in the first place. 

For 6 years he lost jobs, homes, family and friends because he was wrongly posted as a Sex Offender. If he had been of college age he would have lost the opportunity to attend a Virginia University alongside his classmates and receive a degree to further his career options. For 6 years his confidence, his feeling of security and stability was all taken, not just from him but from his family members, employers, co-workers and neighbors. 

He may not be listed on the VSP Registry today but an Internet search of his name still brings up other websites listing him as a Sex Offender. Unless he sues each one of these sites his name will never be fully cleared. 

Six years of being a public Sex Offender destroys you mentally, physically, emotionally and financially. He can never get that time back; the unnecessary damage can NOT be undone because being listed as a public Sex Offender for any period of time is not just administrative, it’s punitive.  

Side-note: 

The former-RSO’s VSP Compliance Officer showed up at his residence a few weeks AFTER he was removed from the VSP Registry, here is part of his email to me: 

She left her card so I just called her back and had her rudely asking when was I going to be home. She was very rude until she found out I was no longer on the registry, then her demeanor changed quickly. After she verified I was not on there, I questioned why she had not been advised. First she stated they do not advise them of the status and she went on to say she printed her cases out over a month ago and never verified any of them before the visits. 

He was removed from the VSP Registry, by the VSP a few weeks ago, not days. And yet a VSP Compliance Officer wasted a trip all the way out to this former-RSO’s home for a compliance check. I’d say the left-hand has no idea what the right-hand is up to over at the VSP.  

What’s next? A certified USPS letter from the VSP to this man mandating him to re-register his information by a designated date or face a felony for failure to register? 

The fact that there is NO VSP process to advise Compliance Officers an RSO is no longer registering whether due to moving out of state, successful removal from the Registry or death is extremely concerning to me.  

What if my RSO family member passed away and I was grieving to have to deal with a useless VSP residential check weeks after the fact, I have to believe I would NOT be the professional or courteous citizen I usually am when the VSP Trooper visits our home twice per year. 

The VSP needs to better communicate to their Compliance Officers and Troopers who do the RSO checks when an RSO has been removed from the VSP Registry. Yes, it’s a rarity that an RSO is ever removed from the Virginia Registry, but it does happen.
 

How many other Virginians who were convicted of crimes that did NOT require registration AND were NOT told to register in their plea deal are listed on the VSP Registry today. 

It appears the VSP has been “riding rough-shod” for years demanding citizens must register as Sex Offenders with no oversight. 

As a result of rogue-registration practices it appears the VSP has been diluting our already over-diluted VSP Registry. By sweeping up even more people than the Legislature and the Courts have mandated to register the VSP is wasting already scare resources like the 2 residential visits per year, the new employment location check, every time they move, change email’s or vehicles a VSP employee has to go confirm in-person or take the change in-person.  

The Legislature has laid out what convictions require registration and our Commonwealth’s Attorneys know they can add registration to a plea deal if they decide to and then the Judge can accept or refuse that mandate. The VSP is NOT above the law when it comes to the Virginia Sex Offender Registry but yet it appears they believe they are by demanding citizens must register or face arrest. 

I believe someone within the Virginia Administration needs to investigate each person currently on the VSP Registry and if the criminal statute did NOT require registration at the time of conviction OR the mandate to register was NOT written into their plea deal then the VSP needs to explain why that person is listed on the Virginia Registry and if it’s found that they should not be an RSO they should be automatically removed. 

I have already sent this information and my request to the Virginia Legislators who are running for reelection this November, to members of the Governors office and to the Virginia ACLU. Why? 

The State of Virginia needs to take this issue seriously because if anyone who was forced to register by the VSP alone and later had a felony failure to register that carried jail time, fines, an increase in classification and becoming a “lifer” with no opportunity to ever petition for removal from our Registry I’d say there are serious legal consequences for allowing the VSP to misinterpret Virginia laws, basically re-write plea agreements and impose life-long punishments without anyone within the Administration or our Courts knowing, questioning or stopping what the VSP has been doing all along. 

If neither the Virginia statute you were conviction under OR your Virginia plea deal say registration as a Sex Offender is required and the VSP forced you to register as an RSO, then I suggest you contact your State Delegate and Senator, the Governors Office and the ACLU of Virginia TODAY and please send me the specifics too so I can keep a running list. 

Mary Devoy