STOP SEX OFFENDERS | MA: Sex-offender registry faces challenge
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Sex-offender registry faces challenge.

March 9, 2001

A new challenge to the sex-offender registry law focuses on whether Massachusetts' 17,000 offenders should be required to register with local police departments before they have had a hearing to determine whether they are dangerous to the community.

Representing the offenders yesterday before the Supreme Judicial Court, attorney Carol Donovan argued the law violates the offenders' constitutional rights by allowing police to create "a list of perennial suspects" they can consult any time a sex crime is committed in their cities or towns.

Donovan said the lists would create a potential for harassment of "innocent" offenders - such as people convicted of statutory rape because they engaged in consensual sex when they were teenagers - even if they had lived law-abiding lives for years since their convictions.

"The majority, the vast majority, of these people are no longer dangerous," Donovan told the seven justices of the SJC.

Assistant Attorney General Jane Willoughby, defending the Legislature's latest version of the registry law, countered that the information would be used responsibly by police and is an effective tool to safeguard the public.

"If a person is convicted of statutory rape for having sex with a girl as a teenager, the police aren't going to waste their time questioning him about a molestation of a boy by a perpetrator who doesn't match his description," Willoughby said after the court session.

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Source: Boston Herald, by David Weber