Kansas Courts Uphold Nation’s Toughest Rules for Tracking People after Conviction | KCUR 89.3
TOPEKA, Kansas – Kansas criminal records people face felony charges for obtaining a new email address without alerting law enforcement.
This is just one of the ways criminal records in Kansas, restricting a wide range of people even after they have completed their probation and parole.
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in two cases last week that the state’s criminal registry laws – some of the toughest in the country – are constitutional.
“The dissemination of registration information does not reach the level of public shame, does not impose an affirmative handicap or restriction, is not excessive and is rationally linked to a non-punitive objective,” the court wrote in his decision.
Both cases concerned persons convicted of offenses requiring their inclusion on the list, but only for certain periods. The state legislature then amended the Kansas Offender Registration Act, requiring these individuals to remain on the list for life and comply with a series of requirements for the state to stay informed of various changes in their life.
Both cases challenged the law as unconstitutional because they added requirements that did not exist at the time the crimes were committed.
In one case, the offender was originally sentenced at the age of 14 and did not serve a prison sentence. But a subsequent change in the law meant that the child offender is legally bound to abide by the rules of the criminal registry for life. Judge Eric Rosen disagreed with the majority of the court and argued that being on the list is an âeffective banâ.
A 2018 Kansas News survey Service found that the state’s online registry was more extensive and had more stringent requirements than those in virtually any other state. Those convicted of drug-related, violent, or sexual crimes should register.
Whether they have been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor, registrants must register with their sheriff’s office and pay $ 20 every three months. Changing jobs, getting a tattoo, or purchasing a car, boat or other vehicle would also require registration within three days of the change. Persons entered in the register without a permanent address must register monthly.
Missing registrations or being $ 40 behind on fees for more than two weeks is a felony.
The person who was sentenced at the age of 14 – identified only as NR in the case – became homeless, saw his life in danger and faced “insurmountable financial pressure” as a result of the demands for stay on the list, according to plea challenging the law.
“Countless legal scholars, academics and social scientists have confirmed how common these burdens are to those who are required to register,” Rosen wrote in her dissent. “Today, the court is avoiding the Constitution of the United States and the citizens it is supposed to protect for reasons that I cannot understand.”
Rosen also expressed his dissent in Davidson v. Kansas State, reiterating that “the oppressive and onerous demands of registering offenders are punitive”.
The Kansas Supreme Court majority ruled that the state legislature did not intend the system to be punishment, and therefore cannot be considered cruel or unusual punishment. Local law enforcement also supports keeping the registry intact, saying it keeps the Kansans informed of “potential dangers to their child.”
âChoices have consequences,â Greg Smith, a former state senator, told the Kansas News Service in 2018. âIf you don’t want to sign up, don’t commit the crime.
The registry has grown steadily in recent years. Jennifer Roth, a Kansas public defender, said there were more than 20,000 people on the list. She said the list is not “based on research, evidence, science (or) data.”
Rosen wrote that registries do little to affect recidivism rates.
Critics of the Kansas registry have been pushing for changes in recent years, saying the system contributes to prison and prison overcrowding by putting people behind bars for failing to meet its strict requirements.
Roth, who is also co-chair of the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers‘ legislative committee, worked on legislation that would lower penalties for non-compliance and allow Kansas to drop off the list earlier. Last year, a bill was passed by a Kansas House committee and then stalled.
The Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission is currently reviewing some of these recommendations.
âI’ve seen movements over the years among members of the public and elected officials to the Kansas legislature,â Roth said, âwhere they really see there is some injustice to it.â
Blaise Mesa reports on criminal justice and social services for the Kansas News Service in Topeka. You can follow him on Twitter @Blaise_Mesa or email him at [email protected]
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