When a person is convicted of a sex crime, he or she will likely have to register as a sex offender. In Washington, those whose crimes are classified as “level two” or “level three” sex offenses typically face especially harsh penalties.
As it currently stands, “level one” offenders don’t deal with as many restrictions as those whose convictions are designated with a higher level. Namely, these individuals don’t have their name and image broadcast publicly. This distinction is largely due to the idea that low-level offenders aren’t likely to reoffend.
The Washington State Patrol is trying to change the way sex offender registration is managed. Law enforcement is trying to have the records of level-one offenders to be included on web pages, alongside higher-level offenders. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union has tried to block this effort by filing an injunction in court.
According to the ACLU, wide release of level-one offenders’ names and likenesses would create undue hardship and public embarrassment. For those who have already paid the consequences for being convicted of a sex crime and followed court orders, this could make it very difficult to find or maintain work, for instance.
In response to the injunction, law enforcement has said the information is already included in public records. Although this may be true, the move would present a noticeable change and implicate about 21,000 people, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The reality is that people might make a mistake when they are young, but have to deal with the consequences of being a registered sex offender for the rest of their life. Knowing the potential effects of this law enforcement effort, readers may want to be on the lookout for any updates in the ongoing legal activity in state court.
Source: SeattlePI.com, “Washington sex offenders, ACLU sue to hide low-level offenders’ identities,” Levi Pulkkinen, Dec. 15, 2013