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Child Sex Offenders Will Get Warning Stamp On Passport

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A federal judge said the rights of registered sex offenders are not violated because of a stamp on their passports that alert foreign governments of the offender's past crimes.

Seven registered sex offenders sued he federal government over the stamp issue, but U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton of Oakland said the group hadn't proven they wold be hurt by the practice, which is a result of the International Megan's Law, which warns foreign governments of registered sex offenders entering their countries.

"The court finds that plaintiffs have failed to establish standing, because they have not alleged a certainly impending injury fairly traceable to the International Megan's Law provisions that they challenge, or which is redressable by the relief sought in the first amended complaint," Hamilton wrote, according to Courthouse News Service. "Because the passport provisions are not yet in effect (and the procedures have not been finalized), plaintiffs cannot show a certainly impending injury."

Hamilton added: "Plaintiffs speculate regarding the possible impact of a passport identifier, suggesting that individuals carrying such passports will be at risk of harm from unknown third parties. Such speculation cannot provide a basis for challenging the statute when the identifier provisions have not even been implemented. Because it is unknown what form the identifier will take, or any of the other details previously discussed, plaintiffs cannot show that they will suffer hardship if the court withholds review."

Janice Bellucci, an attorney for the plaintiffs, all of whom filed anonymously, said her clients would be put in danger when traveling to foreign countries.

“Our U.S. federal government is telling other countries that the person they’ve just marked on the passport is likely to engage in child sex trafficking or child sex tourism,” Bellucci said, according to SF Gate.

One of the plaintiffs said he needed to travel to Iran to claim an inheritance, but the stamp could put his life in danger. And Bellucci said she believes the court's ruling is essentially waiting for that to happen before reconsidering the protocol.

"You have to wait until somebody travels to Iran and they're murdered because their passport has been stamped," she said.

But Hamilton said a factual statement is not an opinion of character and shouldn't necessarily be considered a disparaging remark of that person.

"It is not the speech of the passport holder that is at issue, any more than the speech of the holder of a government-issued identification card is at issue with regard to identifiers such as name, date of birth, height, weight, or eye color,” the judge wrote. 

Sources: SF Gate, Courthouse News Service / Photo credit: Kat/Flickr

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