New Groups of Prior Sex Offenders Tagged for Lifetime Supervision and Monitoring

In a new law that took effect January 1, 2017, around a dozen different types of sex offenders are now required to be supervised by the State Board of Probation and Parole for the rest of their natural lives.  Along with the lifetime supervision, they are also subject to mandatory electronic monitoring through the use of an ankle bracelet, at the expense of the prior sex offender.  Adding additional fuel to the inevitable legal battle regarding the Constitutionality of the new bill, the state legislature made the law retroactive to August 28, 2006.  What this means is that anyone who plead guilty to the roughly 12 types of sex crimes, even all the way back in 2006, now suddenly have this new obligation regardless of how well they did on probation or how productive and law abiding they have been in life following their arrest.  Many of these crimes that require the lifetime registry and electronic monitor are non-contact offenses.

Understandably, sex offenders are not a group of people who are going to garner a lot of sympathy.  However, this new bill seems far over-reaching even in today’s society which treats sex offenses as a modern day scarlet letter.  The new law, RSMo. 217.735, includes offenses such as sexual misconduct involving a child.  Although titles of all sex offenses sound incredibly dangerous to most, sexual misconduct involving a child could include behavior such as urinating in public when a person less than 15 accidentally observes the act.  It is hard to imagine a scenario in which that crime should lead to lifetime supervision and lifetime electronic ankle monitor.

This bill is highly likely to be challenged in short order.  The Missouri Constitution forbids laws that ex post facto in nature, meaning laws that require a new obligation based on a prior act.  Appellate Courts across Missouri and across the country have made exceptions in the case of sex crimes, calling the new obligations civil in nature, rather than punitive.  Either way, this new bill is certain to be appealed an the Missouri Supreme Court is likely going to have to settle the debate as to whether or not these new requirements are Constitutional.

Teen Driving Curfews Could Cut Crime, But At What Cost?

Male teen laughing and driving car with two other laughing passengers

Research out of the University of Texas at Dallas say that teen driving curfews can not only curb car crashes, but they could also reduce juvenile crime. That said, should be really we limiting individual freedoms in order potentially reduce crime?

Before we delve into the ethics of the curfew, let’s take a look at the data. For their study, researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas analyzed national FBI data from 1995 to 2011 involving teenage drivers and drivers with an imposed curfew. According to researchers, arrests of teens fell between 4 and 6 percent in states that placed a driving curfew on new and inexperienced drivers. In the strictest states, arrests were down between 5 and 8 percent.

Other findings from the study include:

  • The largest declines in arrests were in states that had graduated license programs (GDLs) in place the longest.
  • The biggest drops in arrests were from crimes like murder or manslaughter (11 percent), larceny (5 percent) and aggravated assault (4 percent).

Researchers say GDL programs and driving restrictions have been shown to reduce the risk of a crash, but this was the first study to examine how these restrictions affect youth crime.

“Being able to drive or having friends who can drive is the difference between going out and staying home on a Saturday night,” said study author Monica Deza, an assistant professor of economics. “It seemed intuitive to us that having a curfew on driving hours affected the probability that teenagers would get themselves into trouble.”

Researchers stopped short of saying the study proves a cause-and-effect link, rather, they just noted that there was an association between teen driving curfews and reduced juvenile crime rates.

Balancing Restrictions and Freedoms

Everyone knows that getting your license is seen as one of the biggest steps towards adulthood a teen can make, but each state handles the provisional license differently. Some states don’t let new drivers hit the road after midnight or before 5 a.m., while other states restrict cell phone privileges while in the car.

The issue arises when we take the association at face value and jump to the notion that there should be a widespread driving curfew to reduce teen crime. While that may be true, there would also be a reduction in crime if we had a mandatory curfew that required all adults to be home by 9 p.m. We can’t use the guise of safety as a blanket rule to inhibit personal freedoms. Ben Franklin said so himself when he wrote “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

We can go back and forth arguing whether or not driving at night is an “essential liberty,” but it speaks to the larger idea that we can’t just restrict personal freedoms in order to feel a little safer. Some checks and balances certainly need to be put in place for new drivers, but I’m not certain a nationwide curfew is the optimal route.

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