New Hampshire events

Events at the State level.

The case against sex offender residency laws

Work for Smarter Criminal Laws

State House Alert Number Nine • April 12, 2010

By Chris Dornin

Residency restrictions on sex offenders harm kids

Please testify at a Senate hearing April 20 at 2:30 PM in room 103 of the State House for a bill that bars towns from imposing residency restrictions against sex offenders. The legislation, HB1484, runs counter to a 20-year American tradition of rushing sex offender laws to signature while the community still grieves a major crime against a child. The act of legislation becomes almost a memorial rite while the rage is fresh and the voters remember.

That’s where statutes named for Adam Walsh, Megan Kanka, and Jacob Wetterling came from. Florida’s draconian sex offender law passed without serious opposition in June of 2005, three months after the back-to-back lurid murders of Sarah Lunde and Jessica Lunsford. A dozen states soon copied the Florida lead, including New Hampshire.

Powerful Florida lobbyist Ron Book pushed a related residency restriction through his state legislature with little opposition after he learned his grade-school daughter had been raped repeatedly, threatened, and physically abused by her live-in nanny for several years. The resulting statute, based on one horrific case, had nothing to do with the law it triggered. Several New Hampshire towns have copied that residency law.

Here’s an unwritten and dubious rule of State Houses. Reps and senators show weakness, even disrespect for victims, when they ponder too long the possible costs and bad results of a sex offender bill. But the research is abundantly clear. One of the worst practices is a residency restriction against New Hampshire sex offenders like the Dover ordinance found unconstitutional last August. In the first year it drove most of the registered sex offenders elsewhere.

Kill HB1628 before it gets someone killed

Work for Smarter Criminal Laws

State House Alert Number Eight • April 11, 2010

By Chris Dornin

Mark April 20 on your calendar, the showdown on sex offender bills. All of our freedoms are at risk.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hears citizen testimony the afternoon of April 20 on two House bills that would have huge impact on all registered sex offenders and their families. You who are reading this need to be there to stand up for their rights and your own.

The public hearing starts at 2:30 PM in room 103 of the State House for the best sex offender legislation in years, HB1484. You should plan to arrive half an hour early to make sure you have a seat. Hearings on other less crucial crime bills will begin at 2:00 PM.

Why is HB1484 so important? It would stop towns from passing residency restrictions against people on the Internet public registry run by the State Police. The Dover District Court decided last August that a similar city ordinance against sex offenders violated basic property rights. The bill easily passed in the House with support from the Manchester Police, the Department of Safety, Child and Family Services, and the Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

The very next hearing in room 103 is for HB1628, meant to give neighborhoods the green light to drive sex offenders and their loved ones out of town by shunning, stalking, and shaming them. Two police chiefs have told me privately they fear HB1628 could get sex offenders killed amid the widespread hysteria against them. It will ramp up the pressure on an unpopular minority already tyrannized by the majority.

2010 relaunch

CURSOR has been relaunched in order to track the 2010 sex offender bills. We’re happy to announce that Chris Dornin has come on board to cover these bills for us. Chris is a prison volunteer, a former prison counselor, and a retired N.H. State House reporter who covered these and other issues for years.

HB1640 House floor vote

The bill came up for a floor vote in the House today.

Rep. Jennifer Brown attempted to amend the bill, adding provisions similar to HB1501, where two teenagers who engage in a single instance of consensual sex that crosses the age-of-consent boundary would not result in a registrable offense. The amendment was torpedoed when another representative asked a question, implying that the amendment would protect first-time child rapists—ignoring the fact that Rep. Brown explicitly said it only applied to consensual acts.

The amendment was narrowly defeated by a voice vote. The bill was then put to a voice vote and passed overwhelmingly, with only a dozen or so nays.

HB1481 killed

On 2008-02-19, this bill passed out of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee with a unanimous Inexpedient to Legislate recommendation and was placed on the consent calendar.

On 2008-03-05, the full House voted to kill it by voice vote. This bill is dead.

HB1501 (2008)

HB1501, titled “an act relative to the penalty for certain sexual assault cases where the perpetrator is under 21 years of age,” is a bill that would downgrade the penalties for statutory rape for an actor under 21 to a class A misdemeanor.

We support this bill, as it would lessen the penalties against harmless teenage experimentation. We don’t believe it goes far enough—such people would still be forced to register as sex-offenders—but it’s a good start.

HB1294 (2008)

HB1294, titled “an act establishing the offense of public urination or defecation,” is a bill that would end public urination being treated as a registrable sex crime. Currently, a person caught urinating in public will most likely be charged with indecent exposure, a sex crime. This bill creates a new offense of public urination, separate from indecent exposure.

We support this bill, as it will prevent completely harmless people from being placed on the sex-offender registry.

HB1133 (2008)

HB1133, titled “an act relative to the age of majority for purposes of pornography-related offenses,” is a bill to raise the age of consent with respect to pornography from 16 to 18.

What happens to the material already out there that is now being declared illegal? What happens to the people currently in possession of such material, if they don’t dispose of it?

There have been several cases of teenagers photographing each other and then falling afoul of “child pornography” laws. This bill makes it possible for such travesties of justice to occur for an even longer period of time.

We oppose this bill, as it will increase the number of harmless individuals being convicted of sex crimes and appearing on the public registry as offenders against children.

Concord Monitor: Bill to broaden sex offender list

By Annmarie Timmins, Monitor Staff (original article)

Lawmakers are considering vastly expanding the public sex offender registry to include not only more crimes like some Peeping-Tom incidents and indecent exposures, but also the names of people who’ve victimized adults. The public list now identifies only child molesters.

The proposed legislation, introduced in part to bring New Hampshire in line with federal requirements, would also allow the police to collect more information from offenders, including cell phone numbers, e-mail addresses, online screen names and DNA if it hasn’t already been collected.

HB1640 House public hearing

The public hearing for this bill was held before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on 2008-02-05 at 10:30. Laurie, Jeremy, and Mark Warden attended, along with Denis Goddard, Research Director of the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, and a few other NHLA activists.

Rep. Cynthia Dokmo testified to the committee first, explaining the purpose of HB1640 in detail. Mark Warden was the first member of the public to be called to testify, and he gave detailed testimony as to the money issues with this bill. An excerpt:—

With the latest appropriation out of Congress for [the Byrne Grant] program being slashed by 67%, the amount left for states and municipalities has decreased substantially. And of the money that will continue to come in, we only stand to lose 10% of the amount if we are not in compliance. By my estimation, that forfeited amount will only be about $75,000. Yet the fiscal note on this bill from the department states that these changes will cost over $116,000 the first year, along with additional costs of compliance and personnel ad infinitum.

Spending $116,000 to keep $75,000. Need more be said?

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