About one-third of New Hampshire's convicted sex offenders could petition to get their names off the registry after a state court ruled that automatically placing convicts on the list is unconstitutional.
The February ruling in New Hampshire Supreme Court dealt with sex offenders who were convicted before 1994, when the state's sex offender registry was created. Sex offenders convicted since the law was enacted are granted a hearing before they're placed on the registry, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported, but those convicted before 1994 were added to the registry without the benefit of a hearing.
The court ruled that automatically placing offenders on the registry is unconstitutional after a New Hampshire man identified in court documents as "John Doe" challenged the state with the help of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. Doe, who is physically disabled, wanted his name removed from the list so he could apply for federally subsidized housing that could accommodate his disabilities, New Hampshire's Daily Journal reported.
New Hampshire has around 2,8000 registered sex offenders, and about 850 could petition to get their names taken off the list, according to the Union Leader.
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Victim advocates aren't happy about the court's decision and the possibility that convicted sex offenders could successfully get their names removed from the state registry. Amanda Grady Sexton, public policy director for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said she's working with New Hampshire lawmakers to set up a legal protocol for convicts looking to get off the list, and a system to notify the victims of those convicts.
"I think we need to take the voices of the victims into account here," Republican state Sen. Jeb Bradley, of Wolfeboro, told WMUR. "So that's why I'm not really thrilled about him trying to come off the register."
One of those victims is a 46-year-old woman who was abused by "John Doe" for eight years while her mother was married to Doe. The abuse began when the victim was 5 years old and ended when she was 13, after her mother divorced Doe, WMUR reported.
The victim, who was not named in the report to protect her privacy, said she's "not that scared little girl anymore," and wants to ensure all victims are notified if their attackers try to get their names removed from the sex offender registry.
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"It blows my mind that he thinks he's entitled to free housing," the victim said. "He was banking on me not getting notified. So they had no idea I was ready to stand up for myself."