Protecting our kids – or jeopardizing everyone's freedom?
Residency laws for child sex offenders flout the Constitution.
Few crimes deserve greater sanction than child sex offense. Such crimes betray all reasonable standards of moral conduct and they are (deservedly) punished harshly.
Yet in society's understandable rush to punish these criminals, the Constitution is being violated.
Residency restrictions, unconstitutional laws that bar sex offenders from living in a specified area, are on the rise. But why break the highest law for the lowest crime?
When government betrays the Constitution, no matter the reason, we jeopardize everyone's freedom.
Twenty-two states have prohibited sex offenders from living within a minimum distance of family facilities, such as schools and day-care centers. The distance ranges from 500 feet to five times that. And further restrictions are on the way.
In California, state legislation already bans a child sex offender from living within a quarter mile of a school. And a number of jurisdictions are contemplating banning residence by sex offenders altogether.
In larger cities and rural areas, such restrictions may not be overly burdensome. But in small towns, they can make residence for an ex-offender impossible.
The more crucial problem, though, is that residency restrictions clearly violate the constitutional limits on statutory law. Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution reads in part: "No bill, or attainder, or ex post facto law shall be passed." The Latin phrase "ex post facto" literally translates as "from after the fact." The Founding Fathers wisely realized that law must not be retroactive.