Saturday, April 30, 2011

Topic: Knowledge of Laws

Knowledge of Laws

There are so many folks who will dispute what we are about to reveal, but even they do not know the subtle nuances in law/s that have saved many from a long prison sentence. So, all I ask is that folks read the following with an OPEN mind. Each section addresses a specific point.

As you review the following you have to decide what pertains to you specifically, and if it applies to the circumstances you are facing. Mostly it is written in general terms especially what pertains to States as their laws are all different (the whole theory that the Adam Walsh Act's purpose is to make States all the same, is hogwash as you will find). Should you get stuck on some point, then it might be wise to speak to a lawyer showing them what you are confused about. Only local lawyers will know your laws best.
We are eager to hear from folks on these topics SPECIFICALLY. If you have something to add PLEASE contact With that said:

Registration: Folks with Disabilities; Interpreters; etc.

Before we get into the topic of "Knowledge" we should mention that there are folks who have learning disabilities, blind folks, the elderly and the infirm, and folks who do not speak English. These folks are entitled to have someone present to interpret and explain what is going on as well as what the registering agent is explaining (if anything). These interpreters must be provided by the registering agency as mandated under the Americans with Disability Act..

Am I expected to know the laws everywhere:

The simple answer to this is, NO! The United States Supreme court has decided this question years ago in the case of Lambert -v- California 355 U.S. 225 (1957). The essence of that decision is, if there is NO KNOWLEDGE of sex offender registration law, then one cannot be held criminally responsible for violating it.

However, with that said, that case IS NOT the ANSWER to every circumstance, so do not use it unless your circumstances are correct (see below, if any fit). Prosecutors will always try to prove you had knowledge of LAWS given you may have previously registered somewhere, and they may have informed you properly (prosecutors will try anything to get a conviction.)

The Adam Walsh Act (AWA): Forms and Explanations:

From the Adam Walsh Act:

(a) IN GENERAL.—An appropriate official shall, shortly before release of the sex offender from custody, or, if the sex offender is not in custody, immediately after the sentencing of the sex offender, for the offense giving rise to the duty to register—

(1) inform the sex offender of the duties of a sex offender under this title and explain those duties;

(2) require the sex offender to read and sign a form stating that the duty to register has been explained and that the sex offender understands the registration requirement; and

(3) ensure that the sex offender is registered.

(b) NOTIFICATION OF SEX OFFENDERS WHO CANNOT COMPLY WITH SUBSECTION (a).—The Attorney General shall prescribe rules for the notification of sex offenders who cannot be registered in accordance with subsection (a).
Now remember, this is federal law, and even though it is written by the U.S. Congress and they expect States to follow their lead, reality is, states DO NOT write their laws as specific as these, which kinda leaves registrants hanging out to dry. So lets go with the gist of above:

If you read the above closely, it says, an appropriate official (the registering agency, either federal or state) is only required to make sure the registrant knows, that they are to register. It does not include explaining any of the laws that are attached to registration requirements. So if there is anything that a registrant does not understand, they MUST ask questions during registration.
Now, State forms -for the most part- also use terminology that implies registering agents "have explained the laws to the registrant." It appears States -by the language on their forms- that the registering agent must do more than explain the duty to register; but, their forms are kinda tricky. Registrants may get caught by the wording and run afoul of the law/s. (See below)

State Registration Forms: What they say and why?

No matter what state, folks are required to -initially and periodically- appear in person and register (or re-register), or to advise the state of any changes in registration information, during that process certain state forms are used and the registrant is required to sign one or more of them.


So that the State can say, if need be in court, that the registrant HAS BEEN ADVISED of the laws regarding registration and his/her duty to follow the laws. All state forms are similar in nature but in concept they are the State's proof the registrant knows about the laws.

Further, NO registrant has ever mentioned, that, their State uses forms which show the FULL detail of each law/s they are to comply with. Forms, at best, mention the statute number and a brief summary of the title of the law; laws frequently require a Philadelphia lawyer to comprehend anyway, as laws are not written in a way that a reasonable man/woman can understand. Yes, many laws if read carefully one can get the gist of what is required, but not the nuances, which often are later used by police and prosecutors to entrap folks with.

Registrants are then REQUIRED to sign the form/s or generally suffer a new charge of "Failing to Register."
This is the system used by all State sex offender registration systems, and it is not fair nor does it comply with due process; but that is one person's belief.

However State and Federal courts are considering these forms sufficient notice that the registrant has been advised of his/her duties, for the rest of their lives (Click link for cases where registrants have been caught blind-sighted by this)!

State Registration Forms: Trickery - Hidden Meanings

If registrants will look at their forms, somewhere on one of them it will say something like "The laws were explained, or, an official explained the laws" or some context indicating the registering agent EXPLAINED the laws to the person registering.

No one has ever mentioned that, a registering agent has taken the time to EXPLAIN every single law that is attached to registration, and how each applies to a registrant. At best, the agent will make clear when a person is supposed to register (or re-register) and goes no further.
The problem for registrants is, if a registrant gets into court a prosecutor will interpret that "PROVISION about EXPLANATIONS" as the registering agent took the time to make sure the registrant was told everything about all the laws. Virtually securing a conviction. Defense lawyers have to be SMART to avert this disaster.

State Registration Forms: Revised Forms Part-A

When folks go in to register you would think that the registering agency will always use the MOST CURRENT VERSION of the required forms for registration or for changes in registration. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Frequently registering agencies have to pay for the forms they use, and if the State makes a change to its form, then the local agency must BUY NEW FORMS! Reality is, they do not, they try to use up the old forms to save money.

Here is how that MAY AFFECT a registrant, IF IF IF IF your State uses its forms to notify registrants of CHANGES in LAWS -or- REQUIREMENTS, and the registering agency uses an OLD FORM after the date of the CHANGE in LAW, then the person registering WILL NOT be notified of the change in law or new requirement. This could result in an arrest and prosecution for violating whatever the forms FAILED to tell you.

Every registrant MUST be aware of this possible problem, lest they be arrested for something they did not do. When you file this form, in your documentation folder (Yes you should have one), compare it to the last one of its kind, to see if anything is different. Look closely for a REVISION DATE in the corner of the form, if it is the same and the last one of its kind, file it and don't worry. Likely there are no changes, but that still leaves open a registering agency continuing to use old forms, but you have your copy signed and dated to prove your innocence if need be.

Lawyers too often want to plea bargain rather than even look at FORMS as a possible cause for a charge. Registrants need to remind lawyers if this is the cause for a new charge, your documentation folder (Your Bible) will have the evidence. NEVER give the originals to ANYONE!

State Registration Forms: Revised Forms Part-B

What we are about to cover about "Revised Forms" should be included in the Section below that talks about the State notifying registrants about changes in the laws, but, we need to make registrants aware of something special, thats why this separate section.

Hidden Changes in Laws: This is a killer because, unless registrants are keenly aware of what a NORMAL Form looks like, they are not going to notice SUBTLE HIDDEN CHANGES in the forms. Example: The following appeared along the very bottom edge of a Wisconsin registration form (6 lines, the first 2 bold, but all in tiny print)
Six lines, where there were four normally, registrants never noticed this subtle hidden change (2 extra lines) because registering agents never mentioned it when registrants went in to register. To further complicate matters, Wisconsin does not use any Form Numbers with a Revision Date to indicate a change in the form from an earlier version.

Also, if you look at the bottom four lines, they show other revisions made earlier in time, this is the system Wisconsin uses. The result of this system is, they entrap registrants who were not aware of these subtle changes and may violate them after signing the form.

Registrants CANNOT TRUST States as they will design a system for their benefit and at the expense of the registrant. States do not care and this is proof. Registrants NEED A SHARP EYE! However, when such a form is filed in your Documentation Bible, you need to compare it to the previous versions you have already.

State Registration: Notification of CHANGES in Registry Laws

How and when the state notifies registrants of CHANGES in registry laws, is probably the biggest problem registrants face, because as we have seen the State is haphazard in their methods.

By Letter: Every registrant receives a letter explaining any changes in laws, but even this if fraught with problems. Often lawmakers make several changes and all of the changes do not pertain to every registrant, but some to one group and some to another group, etc.

Each group is left scrambling to figure out what applies to them, and if they ask questions of the registering agents, they are told to see a lawyer (actually that is probably the best, but costly as heck).

Rarely do letters ONLY apply to one group of registrants, but when they do that is the only time letters are really effective and due process is complied with.

By Revising FORMS: This appears to be the most common way States notify registrants of changes in laws, but this too is fraught with errors.

This method requires every registrant to appear and sign NEW forms. Unfortunately some local agencies trying to save money, fail to get new forms and registrants sign the same form as before, and are left wide open to possibly violate whatever CHANGE was made in the law. This is a major problem, but if registrants KEEP forms, it is easy to show a court and prove you followed the law, AS YOU WERE NOT NOTIFIED OF THE NEW CHANGES because the local registering agency FAILED in its duty to follow the law. You should not be convicted. Yes, you still lose time from work and maybe spend time in jail in the meantime. (Sue sue sue sue for false arrest etc. You can win this fellow did.).

A second way this is a problem is, if the State doesn't have every registrant come in at one time to sign forms, and instead waits till the registrant's next reporting date (quarterly, semi-annual or annual). This creates severe problems for registrants as they do not know of the changes, and are targets for police harassment or arrest in the period before their next reporting date. Again the fact that you saved your forms will allow you to prove you are not at fault. Yes, you still lose time from work and maybe spend time in jail in the meantime. (Sue sue sue sue for false arrest etc. You can win this fellow did.).
Lawmakers need to enact, as part of the change, a GRACE PERIOD where registrants are not harassed and police told about changes and the grace period. If enough registrants sue, the nonsense will eventually stop.

State Registration Forms: Signing the forms

The majority of registrants will sign forms with their signature and nothing more. However, a select group of folks have mentioned that they sign their name, then add a tiny notation after their signature, a notation that indicates "They have not received a copy of current laws" thus implying they had no way to verify what the registering agent said/explained, if anything, was the way the law was at time of signing the form.

NOTE: Registrants today must think into the future no matter what they do in the present. Here, the tiny notation can raise doubt about some construction of law -at the time of signing- which may be helpful in the future, should you be brought to court on some nuance of law.

NOTE: Registrants should always DATE any form signed, whether or not there is a place for a date.
The above is FYI and makes no suggestion that folks follow suit, but it is one heck of an idea (MY Opinion)! If where you register has been on the up and up with you, this may not be a good idea, but may be a good idea if you have had problems with where you register. Think about it before doing it.

Knowledge of Laws: Summary

It al begins with Lambert -v- California, you do not need to know all the laws, but Lambert is not the answer to every circumstance. Could/Should you have known about law XXXX that you are now charged with violating? Can the Prosecutor prove you had knowledge?

If so, then Lambert will do you no good. Circumstances, circumstances, circumstances, what are they with respect to the law you have been charged with violating? Lambert may fit, but then there is any of the other things we have mentioned above.

For now, have a great day and a better tomorrow.
eAdvocate (BACK to the Top Page)

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