Low risk sex offender shares fear of online registry

A nearly decade long battle started in Nevada after President George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Act in 2006.The federal law is also known as the Sex Offender Registration & Notification Act. It stemmed from the 1981 abduction and murder of 6-year-old Adam Walsh.

In 2007, Nevada lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 579 to make the state compliant with the federal law.

“It’s been back and forth like a ping pong ball for the past several years,” explains Julie Butler, Division Administrator for the Nevada Department of Public Safety.

Butler has been working to get Nevada in compliance with the Walsh Act since it was passed, but the process hasn’t been easy.

The law has been challenged across the state in Clark County Courts, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Nevada Supreme Court.

Opponents of the Walsh Act point out two main concerns; the first is re-categorizing the sex offender tiers.

“Under the old law, or Megan’s Law which is what we’re currently implementing in the face of the stay, offenders are tiered based on their risk to re-offend. Under the new law AB 579 they are tiered based on what their conviction was, like for instance lewdness with a minor and then the age of the victim,” says Butler.

News 4 sat down with a registered Tier 1 sex offender in Washoe County, he asked that we protect his identity because under current Nevada law he is not known to the public as a sex offender.

“It’s been over 30 years now, never in 30 years. I’ve never committed a crime,” says Mike.

Mike was convicted for lewdness with a minor in 1983. He was 16 years old at the time and says he was convinced to take a plea bargain, charging him as an adult.

“Years go by and then I find out all this nightmare comes back … to haunt me all over again,” says Mike.

After 33 years as a low risk sex offender, Mike faces the possibility of becoming a Tier 3 sex offender if the Walsh Act takes effect in Nevada.

“I feel like to put us all in that one basket is not beneficial for anyone,” says Mike.

Mike would suddenly have to report to law enforcement every 90 days and register as a sex offender for life. Under current Nevada law, Mike was nine years away from being able to petition the courts and get rid of his sex offender status altogether.

“When you’re a Tier 3… you’re basically putting a target on our back,” says Mike.

Butler points out the public does need to understand what the new law means, “There is a real need for us to re-educate the public in that the Tier Levels no longer mean risk to re-offend, it really just denotes the frequency and duration of registration.”

Here’s how the numbers would change across the state:

CHANGE IN TIER LEVELS:

CURRENT TIER LEVEL / AB579 TIER LEVEL

TIER LEVEL 1 = 1,923 / 1,646

TIER LEVEL 2 = 2,648 / 1,790

TIER LEVEL 3 = 239 / 3,014

TIER LEVEL 0 = 1,703/rolled into new Tier 1, 2 or 3

The second and possibly most controversial component of the Walsh Act is the online registry.

Mike, along with hundreds of other low risk sex offenders would have to share his home address, his employer’s address, his license plate number and vehicle description to the entire world.

“I just want this to be over, and it’ll never be over if this new law passes. It’ll be with me the rest of my life in a lot more negative way,” says Mike.

On June 30, 2016 a Clark County judge denied an emergency motion filed on behalf of 17 unnamed plaintiffs trying to stop the law. Attorney’s then filed an emergency writ the same day with the Nevada Supreme Court and a temporary stay was granted.

The following statement was provided by Attorney Maggie Mcletchie, who is representing the unnamed plaintiffs trying to stop the law:

Nevada should not be wasting money to implement changes to sex offender laws if they do not promote public safety. Most states have refused to implement the Adam Walsh Act for two reasons. First, it’s a waste of money and second, it makes us – and our kids – less safe. The federal government can’t tell Nevada what laws to pass. The Nevada legislature made a huge mistake then they rushed into passing Adam Walsh in 2007 thinking they were bound to an unfunded federal mandate. The law will cost Nevada far more money than it will save and the 2007 version of the Adam Walsh Act. Rather than demanding over half a million dollars to just start implementing the law, which the Department of Public Safety recently did, we should let the legislature make the necessary changes next session to both maintain our safety and save us money. We should also make sure that constitutional problems are resolved. People at the very least need a process to fix errors before Nevada permanently labels them sex offenders and subjects them and their families to violence.

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