From the BDN:
As the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee begins the difficult and emotionally charged task of remaking the state’s sex offender registry in the wake of a Maine supreme court ruling and changes to federal law, lawmakers must ensure that the public is protected without excessive punishment or shaming. Creating a tiered registry and not making public information about low-level offenders is a good way to achieve this.
Last year, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court raised significant questions about the state’s sex offender registry. The court was especially concerned about changes made in recent years to require Internet posting of personal information about offenders, to restrict where offenders can live and to require fingerprinting every 90 days for offenders convicted since 1982. The case was brought by a man who said the registry violated his rights by imposing punishment that did not exist when he pleaded guilty in the 1980s to a crime against a family member.
The changes have made the law significantly more punitive and intrusive, changing the nature of the sanctions from civil penalties to a retroactive increase in criminal penalties. The justices suggested this retroactive increase violates the Maine Constitution. The court said it needed more information before ruling on the merits of the case and sent it back to Kennebec County Superior Court, where it is pending.
The most stinging rebuke came from Justices Donald Alexander and Warren Silver, who wrote a concurring opinion in stronger language. "We now recognize the extent to which the state’s use of the Internet to display registration information correlates to the shaming and branding punishments used in colonial times, and we have seen the registries’ potential for causing retributive and vigilante justice against registrants," they wrote. In 2006, two men on the registry were killed by a man from Canada who reviewed their information on the state’s sex offender Web site, the most popular in state government. The justices rightly wonder how making the identity and whereabouts of the state’s registered offenders accessible to anyone anywhere in the world is not unduly punitive.
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A bill that the Criminal Justice Committee is scheduled to begin considering today, LD 446, aims to address the concerns raised by the court and to comply with changes in the federal registry law, which will require a tiered system. Under a tiered system, offenders would be included in the registry for differing lengths of time depending on the severity of their crimes. The amount of information made public would also increase with the seriousness of the crime.