Effective January 1, 2017, Missouri sex offenders guilty of 13 different sex crimes based on acts committed on or after August 28, 2006, are subject to additional security requirements. They will be required to wear GPS monitoring devices for the rest of their lives. This includes defendants who were sentenced before this requirement was enacted. This raises two important issues. First, many of these defendants resolved their cases prior to the first of this year, and this requirement was not included in their original plea arrangement or sentence. Additionally, it makes daily functioning in the community as a convicted sex offender that much more onerous and burdensome. Both of these issues require careful consideration.
The GPS devices at issue alert authorities if an offender “lingers” near a school or park. When the device activates, the defendant receives directions from a state official to, for example, report immediately to a probation officer. The devices are also waterproof, and will alert the authorities if a defendant attempts to remove it. The new rules affect hundreds of sex offenders throughout the state.
The first problem that the implementation of this GPS monitoring technology raises is that it was not contemplated by plea deals agreed to, or sentences imposed, prior to January 1, 2017. Defendants who resolved their cases prior to the implementation date agreed to plead guilty based upon certain stated terms and conditions, all of which were presumably included in the records of their cases. At sentencing, the court imposed certain terms and conditions of supervision with which they had to comply prospectively. They were presumably advised by competent counsel, received notice of all of the requirements of community supervision, and consented to them in connection with the disposition of their cases. In short, they knew the deal, and consented to it. Now, after the fact, the rules are being changed with the addition of new, burdensome requirements that are apparently permanent. How the terms and conditions of a plea arrangement or sentence can be so altered with no discussion or debate runs roughshod over basic concepts of due process, as well as fairness and decency.
The other issue raised by the new rules is that it makes the lives of these defendants that much more difficult. The fact is that we, as a society, have decided that it is better for everyone if certain sex offenders live in the community subject to terms and conditions of supervision. These terms often include, but are not necessarily limited to, restrictions on where the offender can live and work, and who they can associate with. On the surface, all of this sounds perfectly appropriate and reasonable. However, increased restrictions hamper their chances of success by eliminating opportunities. For example, it is not unusual for a judge to require a defendant to seek and maintain gainful employment as apart of a probationary sentence. During one such sentence, I once heard a judge say that there are relatively few problems that cannot be fixed by having a good job. That judge was absolutely correct – regular employment and everything that goes with it is the key to success in many areas of life. By the same token, restricting someone’s ability to obtain decent employment sets them up for failure. Lifetime GPS monitoring that has the potential to further restrict movement accomplishes little more than this.
As we have commented on this blog previously, there is no proof that state sex offender supervision regimens, which require substantial resources to operate, do anything to make the public safer. Missouri’s new rules, aside from being patently unfair to defendants who were previously sentenced under different requirements, makes a bad situation worse. Not surprisingly, several defendants who resolved their cases before January 1, 2017, have already sued to challenge the new rules. These cases raise serious due process concerns, and must be taken seriously.
Middlesex County criminal defense attorney James S. Friedman represents defendants charged with sex offenses in the Superior Court of New Jersey, the New York State criminal courts in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and all federal courts throughout New Jersey and New York City. If you have been charged with a sex crime, including offenses involving possession or distribution of child pornography, start planning your defense by contacting us immediately.