For many crimes, individuals who are convicted will serve their sentence and are then allowed to attempt to reintegrate into society. Although they now have a criminal record that can be researched, they don't need to tell everyone they meet that they were convicted of robbery, drunk driving or whatever their particular offense may have been.
In recent posts, we have written that an increasing number of individuals and advocacy groups are beginning to challenge the effectiveness and purpose of sex offender registries. These registries were intended to make communities safer by alerting the public to the presence of an individual who has been convicted of sex crimes.
Earlier this week, we began a discussion about the need for reforms of state and federal sex offender registry laws. Critics argue that these laws are ineffective at preventing sex crimes, that they disproportionately punish most convicted offenders who are listed and that they prevent convicted offenders from rehabilitating and reintegrating.
Last month, we wrote about an unnamed Maryland man who fought to have his name removed from the state's sex offender registry. It is easy to see why one would want to do this. Individuals listed on state or federal sex offender registries are severely restricted in where they can live and immediately become social pariahs in any community.
Many would argue that the most difficult consequence of a sex crimes conviction is not time spent in prison, but rather the requirement to register as a sex offender. Long after convicted sex offenders have served their sentence, their name stays on a publicly available list that makes them social outcasts in any community.
Anyone facing sex crimes charges has a lot to lose if they are convicted. Possession of child pornography, for instance, is an offense that could land an individual in prison for years. But in these cases, the specific length of a prison sentence may not have as much to do with the nature of the crime as it does with where the crime was prosecuted.
Earlier this week, we began a discussion about a Maryland criminal case that will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court later this month. It concerns a man who was arrested for a non-injurious gun crime. While under arrest, the man was forced to give a DNA sample, which was subsequently linked to an unsolved sexual assault case.
In the last few years, some high-profile criminal cases from Maryland have come before the U.S. Supreme Court, including one challenging law enforcement's use of GPS to track suspects.
We have previously written that few types of offenses are as severely prosecuted as sex crimes, especially those in which children are victimized. Individuals convicted of possession of child pornography, for instance, may be sentenced to decades in prison.
There are times when individuals who normally enforce the law suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of it. Thankfully, one of the most important aspects of our criminal justice system is the fact that all citizens have the right to a fair trial, no matter how guilty others assume them to be.