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The Purpose Of The International Megan's Law
Most of us probably know what Megan's Law is. Any of us who have ever watched the television show titled Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has repeatedly heard about this law. Back in 1994, a deranged maniac named Jesse Timmendequas kidnapped, raped and murdered a 7-year-old girl named Megan Kanka. This tragedy received nationwide attention, and lawmakers all over our country became dead set on changing the laws so that authorities would easily be able to keep track of criminals who had been convicted of dangerous crimes of that nature.
Megan's Law started out with good intentions. Americans wanted to find a way to ensure that our children were safe and sound and that no predator could get near them. However, problems ensued once our criminal justice system began filling up sex-offender registries with names and personal information of people who had been convicted of some of the most ridiculous infractions. As a result, there has been pushback in recent years. However, strong supporters of Megan's Law (e.g. Wendy Murphy and President Barack Obama) believe that this system does work and does protect children.
Six and a half years ago while I was surfing the Internet in search of any information about former classmates of mine out of curiosity, I stumbled across shocking information about a boy I had known back in elementary school. For purposes of this article, I will refer to him as Garreth. I had not seen him since he and I were both 9 years old, because my family and I had moved to a different part of my county after I had completed the fourth grade. I had found out that Garreth was on the sex-offender registry ("SO registry") in my state jurisdiction.
Garreth was in my third- and fourth-grade classes back in elementary school. He was a small kid. He was always shorter than me back in those days. He could be a little quiet at times. He and I got along most of the time. He was better behaved than most of our classmates, and he had a good sense of humor. As far as I knew, everybody in my third- and fourth-grade classes liked him. The only regret that I ever had about Garreth was that I fell out of contact with him after I changed elementary schools. I remember one time when our respective mothers volunteered to be chaperones on a school field trip, and Garreth's mother and my mother had a friendly, little conversation that two women with small children normally did.
Nothing could have ever prepared me to see Garreth's face and personal information someday on an SO registry. Then again, you never really expect to see any of your former classmates' faces and personal information on an SO registry; and when you do so, you always anticipate that it is going to be the class bully or someone who acted really weird and was a social outcast back when you knew that individual. You at least envision that person to be someone that just about everyone in your class hated back when you were a kid in school.
What greatly disturbed me is that Garreth's sex-offender registration ("SO registration") showed that he had been convicted of a sexual offense involving a minor. When I was working at a call center so many years ago, I remember speaking with Garreth's parents on the telephone and they had told me that Garreth was married and had four kids by then. Coincidentally, this telephone conversation between us had taken place around the time that Garreth had gotten into trouble for the crime that had landed him on the SO registry. After his parents had set the telephone receiver down to do something in connection with their telephone conversation with me, I heard them yelling and arguing with each other in the background. In hindsight, it is very clear that they were likely undergoing a great amount of stress in relationship with the embarrassing situation with which their son was confronted.
Garreth currently owns a surveying and mapping business, and he has been doing well with it. In spite of all the legal limitations he has been facing since the time of his conviction, he has managed to move on with his life and prosper in his career. Unfortunately, most people in his situation cannot boast about such accomplishments after they have landed on an SO registry.
I have not spoken with Garreth since the time we were 9-year-old boys in elementary school. I would probably be too uncomfortable to ask him exactly what happened and what events led up to his conviction for his crime and his placement on the SO registry in the event that we were ever to see each other again, because I really feel that it is something that is his own personal business. If our paths were someday to cross and he wanted to tell me about it, I would give him a listening ear instead of passing judgment on him. I would never wish him any harm, and I am glad that he has made a success out of his life in spite of all the legal obstacles with which he now must contend.
Sex-offender registrants ("SO registrants") who have been convicted of offenses of lewd behavior against minors live with Draconian enough restrictions as for where they can reside, whom they can associate with, and what kind of employment they can obtain. Many of them are not even allowed to be on the Internet for any reason. Until recently, I was completely unaware that the International Megan's Law had existed that dictated that any such registered sex offender ("RSO") leaving the United States of America to go on vacation or for any reason was required to have a unique identifier placed on their passport so that the country of destination would be alerted that that individual has been convicted of a sexually-based offense against a minor here in our nation. I can imagine that anyone who actually was on an American SO registry for reasons cited herein became extremely shocked once they found out about this same law.
The reported purpose of the International Megan's Law is to stop child predators from committing heinous crimes in other nations. However, does this law really work and is it fair to everyone involved? A whole host of people seem to disagree. One thing is for sure. My childhood classmate, Garreth, could experience some very unpleasant difficulties in the event that he and his family decide to travel to another country for vacation. If I were an immediate family member of his, somehow such a situation would not sit well with me.
A Description Of The International Megan's Law
Despite that the International Megan's Law has existed for some time now, many Americans are still unaware of it, including many Americans who are currently on an SO registry for crimes of sexual misconduct against minors. Even though this law may appear to be well-intentioned, it is in dire need of either being reformed or completely eliminated from existence. Too many innocent individuals have been needlessly caught in this law's line of fire.
Steven Robert Whitsett (also known as River Whitsett) has researched the International Megan's Law and the likes so that others to whom it applies will be well informed about it before traveling overseas. He explains what it entails in his video below.
Steven Robert Whitsett Describes The International Megan's Law In A Nutshell
According to Mr. Whitsett in his video above, the Philippines, Japan, Australia, and Canada seem to be the only nations that would deny entry to any American who has the unique identifier on their passport alerting other nations that he or she has been convicted of a sexually-based offense against a minor. The European nations seem to be more understanding of individual circumstances in this event.
If any of you are curious about who Mr. Whitsett is, he is an American who emigrated from our nation to Germany to get away from what he felt to be unreasonable SO registry laws. He is currently seeking political asylum in Germany from the United States of America through that nation's court system. In a video below, Mr. Whitsett provides a description of the events that led up to his departure from the United States of America.
Steven Robert Whitsett Explains How He Landed On The Sex-Offender Registry In Florida
Because Mr. Whitsett currently does not have to answer up to the American sex-offender-registry ("SOR") laws, he has been able to prosper professionally there in ways that he would never have been able to do so if he had decided to remain in the United States of America. There can be no question that the American criminal justice system still continued to subject him to undue scrutiny well after he had paid his debt to society. He is also now helping others who have fallen into similar circumstances as him after they have served their entire sentences.
The Legal Battle Against The International Megan's Law
Some of you reading this article here of mine may be old enough to remember the anti-Vietnam-War demonstrations back in the 1960s. Many of us were either too young to remember those days or we had not been born yet. However, there is an abundance of information about what went on during these protests and what the objectives of them were all over the Internet.
In recent years a similar movement has taken birth against the International Megan's Law. In the 1960s, male demonstrators burned their draft cards to protest against the Federal government's forcible conscription of young men into the military to serve in the Vietnam War. Here in the 21st century, protesters against the International Megan's Law have been found burning their sex-offender-registration cards to express their adverse feelings about this same law.
Below is a video from Metamora Films wherein opponents of the International Megan's Law express their strong disapproval of it in the form of a demonstration against it as well as legal actions. You will be astonished to learn that many participants in that same demonstration are pragmatic individuals who value the basic freedoms to which all Americans should be entitled.
Demonstrators Stand Up Against The International Megan's Law
There are two faces in the above Metamora Films video that you may find familiar. The first familiar face that appeared at the demonstration shown in the above video was Derek Logue. Mr. Logue has been active in reforming the SOR laws for a substantial amount of time in spite of the odds which he has confronted in his mission to do so. He is the founder of OnceFallen.com.
Below is a video of Ashleigh Banfield interviewing Mr. Logue. During that interview, Ms. Banfield loses her temper and chastises Mr. Logue for his previous confrontation with the law. As she does so, she briefly reveals the nature of the criminal offense that landed Mr. Logue on an SO registry. The melodrama that unfolds in that incident will keep your attention well focused on the interview.
Ashleigh Banfield Attempts To Put Derek Logue In The Hot Seat Regarding The Fairness Of Sex-Offender-Registration Laws
I have watched other video clips of television interviews with Mr. Logue and have read up on his background. The actual story behind his confrontation with the law was a situation that involved a distant cousin of his and a harmless kiss. His distant cousin was 11 years old, and he was 24 years old at the time of the incident. Much to his misfortune, the Alabama authorities found out about it. The rest is history. Mr. Logue accepted his punishment. Never mind Ms. Banfield's drama-queen performance.
Another face that you may recognize in the previous Metamora Films video herein is Paul Rigney. He is a spokesperson for various organizations that are attempting to change the law in the way he describes in his interview in a video below. In that same interview, he provides details regarding a lawsuit with the objective of getting rid of the International Megan's Law.
Paul Rigney Denounces The International Megan's Law And Describes Efforts To Get Rid Of It
After watching Mr. Rigney's interview above, what I find particularly concerning is that Nicaragua deported an American gentleman back to our nation after United States government officials alerted them about some trivial incident of his from years ago, pursuant to the International Megan's Law. Well, the longstanding president of that nation, Daniel Ortega Saavedra, is not exactly an angel in wings himself, and his own stepdaughter will tell you what a monster he is as reported in an article from The New York Times. After reading that same article, you will discover that President Ortega is the face of depraved hypocrisy. Then again, he doesn't exactly have a squeaky clean record for the human rights of women and children.
Pros And Cons Regarding The International Megan's Law
As there will be pros and cons to every topic of controversy, I realize that not everyone is on board with the above-described movement to abolish the International Megan's Law and to reform the SOR laws here in our nation. You will be shocked to know that a criminal defense attorney who actually represents defendants in sexual offenses appears to have absolutely no problem with the International Megan's Law or the current SOR laws throughout our nation. Her name is Allie Booker, and she practices law in the state of Texas. Uh oh. That's the same state as that of Governor Greg Abbott, who has the reputation of being a hardliner regarding laws that punish sexually-based offenses throughout his jurisdiction. Oh, well. I seriously doubt that Ms. Booker voted for him, but I may be wrong.
After I first saw the thumbnail to Ms. Booker's video on YouTube regarding an RSO seeking to go to the Philippines, I had thought that she was going to be very open-minded and liberal about providing legal advice to make something of that nature very easy to pursue. The person asking her the question via electronic mail was actually a Filipina who wanted to travel to her home country of the Philippines from the United States of America and bring her significant other with her to live despite that he was a convicted SO. This Filipina also wanted to marry this same man.
Much to my surprise, Ms. Booker responded to this same Filipina with a stern MeToo-Movement mentality. She did nothing to humanize this man that this Filipina wanted to marry. Watch the video below to see what I mean.
Allie Booker, Esquire Provides Legal Advice Regarding A Sex Offender Obtaining A Passport To Immigrate To The Phillippines
In her video above, Ms. Booker does not really delve into the fact that the unique identifier on the SO's passport would prompt the Filipino immigration and customs authorities to deny him entry into the Philippines. Her response to the Filipina was that when this woman's fiancé applied for a passport from the United States Department of State, it was likely that they would deny him one.
My school of thought is if we want to get answers about how the United States Department of State would normally handle applications for passports from RSOs, then we should probably go to the horse's mouth. Below is a video clip in that regard.
The United States Department Of State Explains Its Policy On Issuing Passports To Registered Sex Offenders
In the news clip above, United States Department of State officials say nothing about denying an RSO's application for a passport. However, they do stress that there will be a unique identifier on the passport pursuant to the International Megan's Law that will alert any nation of destination that this individual has been convicted of a sexually-based offense here in our nation. Therefore, it is not really a question of whether an RSO can leave our nation but rather a question of whether the country of destination will be willing to grant them entry.
In view of Ms. Booker's feedback on how these laws work or should work and in view of the information that the United States Department of State provides on how the passport application process usually plays out for RSOs, I do have to bring light to the fact that the United States of America probably has the most austere SOR laws of any nation in the world. Most European nations either have an SO registry that is solely accessible to the police or they don't have one at all. Mr. Whitsett provides information in this respect in his video below.
Steven Robert Whitsett Describes How The Sex-Offender Registries Operate In European Nations That Actually Have Them
Poland is the only nation in Europe that has a public SO registry. At one time, an SO registry had materialized within the private sector of Sweden, but the Swedish government decided to run interference on it in the form of an investigation because of privacy-related concerns with its practices. It brings to mind that there was once a movement to remold SO registries into privately-owned businesses here in the United States of America until concerned citizens stepped in and put a stop to it.
Even though I feel that Ms. Booker is perfectly entitled to her opinions and that her experiences with clients who have been accused of sexual offenses are going to mold her viewpoints regarding RSOs, I can understand why most European nations either have a very limited SO registry or they don't have one at all insofar as they question the integrity of American SO registries. We live in the only nation in the world where someone can end up on a public SO registry for life for victimizing an imaginary person who has never even existed. Below is a video of a gentleman named Ian whose situation fits that same scenario.
Ian Describes How He Landed On The Sex-Offender Registry Despite That He Victimized Nobody
Upon hearing Ian describe how he was caught in a sex-sting operation, in his above interview, the methodology that the police used to close in on him reeks with entrapment. Of course, that is another article for another time. Ian is clearly not the anti-social abomination that most people would believe him to be if they were not fully informed of the facts behind his particular case.
It greatly bewilders me how someone can end up on an SO registry for life merely for committing a Romeo-and-Juliet offense as in the case of Shawna in the video below. Elected officials over in Europe have to be watching videos like the one above about Ian and the one below about Shawna if they are refusing to acquire the same SOR laws that the United States of America has on the books. Watch Shawna explain her situation below.
Shawna Must Stay On A Sex-Offender Registry Indefinitely For A Romeo-And-Juliet Tryst
After watching the video above, it becomes obvious that Shawna is a mother and a homemaker who only wants what is best for her children. She is not a habitual criminal or a sexual predator. Her children are being made to suffer because of laws that are aimed to ruin her life. How is it fair?
If an opportunity were ever to present itself to Ian and Shawna to leave the United States of America and immigrate to a nation that treated them with dignity and respect as Mr. Whitsett did, I would not doubt that they would jump at it in a heartbeat. Nobody can rightfully conclude that they are both menaces to society. Neither one of them have ever really harmed anyone.
Law Professor Catherine L. Carpenter of Southwestern Law School, who is a nationally renowned criminal law scholar in the area of sex crimes and SOR laws, identifies the unconstitutionality of sexual-offense laws in her speech to Saint Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, New York. Watch the video of her below.
Law Professor Catherine L. Carpenter Denounces Sexual-Offense Laws As Unconstitutional
My response to Professor Carpenter's speech above is that if our sexual-offense laws have numerous flaws in them in terms of their constitutionally or rather their lack thereof, there is no way that the International Megan's Law could serve the ends of justice. It is only exporting a serious problem with our criminal justice system to other nations for Americans travelling abroad.
What I find so interesting about Professor Carpenter's above speech is that she mentions that Alabama has over one hundred ways that a convicted SO can violate the terms and conditions of being on the SO registry. Alabama was the same state where Derek Logue got convicted for a sexually-based offense. Therefore, it is no wonder that he became active in fighting against SOR laws.
Although I completely understand why society wants to protect itself from dangerous criminals, as Americans, we also have to take the rights of each and every person in our nation into consideration. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the current American SOR laws violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The International Megan's Law has only fanned the flames of that same fire since its conception, and like the American SOR laws, it is crosses the line of cruel and unusual punishment.
Since 1996, the entire concept of the SO registry in our nation has evolved from a law-enforcement tool to a vortex of needless humiliation and undue scrutiny. People who are forced to be on an SO registry are made vulnerable to identity theft and even vigilante violence. I am all for ensuring the public safety. However, where our SOR laws have really spiraled out of control is that they require each and every American on an SO registry to bear what amounts to be no different from a scarlet letter on their passport that misguides government officials abroad into believing that they could be letting the next Jack the Ripper into their nation. It is time that our nation's Congress either reforms the International Megan's Law to narrow it down to apply only to hardcore offenders or does away with it altogether inasmuch as it is benefitting nobody in its present state.
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