CARSOL (California Reform Sex Offender Laws) is currently in the process of lobbying state legislators in Sacramento on behalf of a new plan that promises to offer some relief to those citizens who have been forced to register as sex offenders in California (CA Penal Code 290-294). However, while there is a good deal of support for this kind of thinking, others claim that the entire process is unconstitutional and should be abolished, not retooled.
As for the constitutionality of the current laws, there is at least one crucial point to remember, the United States government is not allowed to place citizens under ‘contract’ (as a registry does) unless this measure is punitive. Additionally, although this is not constitutional in and of itself, state legislatures (including that of California) have made it legal as far as each individual state is concerned. Think of it as similar to state marijuana laws, voters in each state can vote to make use of marijuana legal, but that does not prevent federal law enforcement agents from acting to uphold federal laws against the use and possession of marijuana, which supersede state laws. In the case of sex offender registries, the opposite seems to be true, state laws seems to supersede their constitutionality as far as the entire nation is concerned.
What supporters of a ‘tiered’ system argue for is a compromise. They believe that the California sex offender registry will never be abolished and so seek to at least mitigate some of the extraordinarily detrimental effects being placed on the registry can mean for convicted offenders, or for many who believe that they were forced into a guilty plea by foolish public defenders and overzealous members of law enforcement. Detractors of the tiered system worry that placing sex offenders into different strata according to carefully constructed criteria that would determine the seriousness of their crime is beside the point. They would rather the system were abolished entirely.
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