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Monday, January 23, 2017

Virginia State Police Not Accountable for Lost Paperwork, But Citizens Face a Felony


The below was emailed to 19 members of the Virginia Administration at 12:47PM on January 23, 2017
 

Governor McAuliffe and Secretary Moran, 

Back on October 20, 2015 I wrote about the Virginia State Police no longer giving a receipt to our Registered Sex Offenders (RSO) when they re-register in-person at a VSP location. 

Here it is:
In short, somewhere during 2015 the State Police without direction from the Virginia Legislature decided to no longer make a copy of the signed, thumbprint and date- stamped SP236A to the Offender to prove they had met their legal requirement to re-register within the deadline. 

I knew this unnecessary VSP policy change was going to lead to future problems for our RSO’s who had met their legal obligation on time but were being investigated by the VSP. 

Last week I received this email from a Virginian. I have removed any none relevant paragraphs and I’ve also removed any identifying information even though I’m sure the VSP knows exactly who he is. Otherwise, these are his words. 

I am a sex offender, and have been since I was 17.
Around ________ ___, 2016, I received a notice in the mail letting me know I had to pick up my VSP re-registration letter from the post office. On ________ ___, 2016 I pick up the letter from the post office and hand delivered it to the Sergeant's desk at the State Police station.
Twenty-three days later my VSP Compliance Officer visits me at my home, there were no issues to report on either side.
15 days after that I update my work address at the VSP, only to find out I have a warrant issued for failure to register. I wasn't arrested immediately. I was told to contact my Compliance Officer, who told me to contact the Trooper who handles my case. The warrant was confirmed and I turned myself in the following Monday, and had a hearing that Friday.
When I turned myself in, I was told that the burden of evidence was on me. I was told there was no way there was a paperwork error, and that I was being charged because I didn't register. I explained that the re-registration form (SP236A) doesn't have a carbon receipt like the standard form (SP236) does, so there was no evidence for me to have. It was at this point that I was told I needed to have the cover letter of the reregistration letter stamped (mind you, the only type on the cover letter is my address and two bar codes).
The only evidence in my favor that I managed to find was through an FOIA request to the facility that I registered. The footage documenting visitors of the State Police location on that day was written over, but I was able to get a copy of the visitation log taken by the Sergeant on Duty on that date. That proved that I registered on time.
I haven't been to my hearing yet, but I’m hoping the log is enough to prove my innocence. I'm writing due to my grave concerns about how insurmountable it seems to defend against the accusation of 'knowingly failing to register'. It's especially troubling considering had I mailed it in and been accused, I would have no means to defend myself. Moreover, had the Sergeant on Duty failed to keep records, I'd have no defense. I feel like this is procedural recklessness, especially considering the Department that handles the registration paperwork is the same Department that had access to visitation records. Blatant willful ignorance.
I feel like if this can happen once, it can happen many, many more times, and to people who may not have any evidence to support their claim.
 

The number of known and unknown legal hurdles that the Virginia Legislature and the Virginia State Police expect our Registered Sex Offenders to jump through is long and arduous but for the VSP to drag this man through this expensive legal process with a new felony hanging over his head is beyond unacceptable. 

Virginia RSO’s who visit a VSP location or any local authority to update their data or re-register should ALL be given a copy of the form that shows the data they have registered, that they have signed, given their thumbprints and is stamped with a date and time. 

The change that the VSP made back in 2015 was a mistake and it needs to be corrected immediately. 

Sincerely, 

Mary Davye Devoy