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US Supreme Court: Sex offender's sentence unconstitutional

In this blog, we often discuss the fact that sex offenders can receive some of the most aggressive criminal sentences if convicted. There is the potential for lengthy prison sentences, life-long registry as a sex offender and the permanent stigma of being convicted of a sex crime.

However, sentencing tactics have been closely scrutinized because they seem to increasingly toe the line between creative punishment and a violation of a person's civil rights. One case was recently heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and highlights the questionable -- and potentially unconstitutional -- nature of some sentences for sex offenses.

The case involves a man who was convicted of sex offenses in 1996 and 2006. Because he was a repeat offender, the man was facing even harsher punishment for his second offense. The county court ordered that the man be equipped with a GPS device for the rest of his life. The device would allow police to track his every movement through satellite monitoring.

This sentence was immediately challenged as a violation of his protection from unreasonable search and seizure. After several appeals and motions, the case ultimately ended up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Supreme Court justices took into account several arguments, including the man's complaint that the device needs to be charged for up to six hours a day, meaning he would need to sit next to an outlet for that long every day. They also acknowledged the argument that putting the same tracking device on a car without a person's consent is considered a violation of a person's civil rights, so it follows that putting the device on the man could also be considered unreasonable search.

The original ruling was vacated and the case was sent back to the state's Supreme Court.

This case is an unfortunate reminder of the lengths to which the courts and prosecutors may go to try and make a sex offense penalty as harsh as possible. The law enforcement community comes down especially hard on people accused of sexual misconduct, and some of their tactics go way too far. People who are facing these serious charges need to understand that they can protect their rights and their futures by working with an attorney to defend against allegations or proposed sentences.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Sex Offender's Future Monitoring Faces Review," Dan McCue, March 30, 2015

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