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Some sex crime monitoring unconstitutional

Just being accused of a sex crime in South Carolina can cause serious damage to a reputation and one's personal life. After very aggressive prosecution, those convicted of a sex crime can face very severe penalties with lifelong effects. These penalties can include jail or prison time and registration on the sex offender registry.

However, according to the South Carolina Supreme Court, there is a limit on the punishment that some sex offenders can receive. Recently, the Court ruled that the lifelong location monitoring of one South Carolina woman was unconstitutional.

This woman was convicted of sex crimes against a minor a few years ago, but was classified as a having a low risk of repeating harm to a child. She received jail time and probation. Allegedly, she violated the terms of her probation by drinking, associating with a felon and by rescheduling counseling appointments.

As punishment for her alleged parole violations, this woman was ordered to undergo continuous monitoring of her location for the rest of her life. As part of this order, she could not leave the state of South Carolina without permission, and she could only stay overnight in another state in emergency situations with approval from authorities. She would have had no opportunity in the future to appeal this punishment..

The South Carolina Supreme Court said this punishment, particularly since the woman would have no opportunities to appeal, was unconstitutionally harsh. In particular, the justices said this punishment violated the woman's privacy rights. They said the information collected created too clear a picture of her lifestyle and went way beyond even the information gathered for sex offender registries.

Furthermore, the justices argued that this punishment was too arbitrary to be enforceable. This was only given for certain types of offenses but not others, and only sometimes did it include the right to appeal.

While punishment is a part of any conviction, this case reminds us that the sentence must be constitutionally fit for the crime. It cannot violate one's privacy rights.

Source: WBTV.com, "SC justices: Sex offender's punishment too harsh," Jeffrey Collins, May 9, 2012

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