GPS Monitoring Violated Paroled Sex Offender’s Constitutional Rights
Massachusetts law requires that all those convicted of sex crimes register with a Sex Offender Registry Board. This board is also the state agency responsible for classifying each offender’s status and setting a registration “level” classification, which can lead to conditions such as a defendant having to wear a GPS monitoring device.
The recent Massachusetts Appeals Court case of Doe v. Massachusetts Parole Board provides an example where such a condition was inappropriate and violated the defendant’s constitutional rights.
Imposition Of A New Parole Condition
The defendant was convicted of sex-related offenses in 1988, and was sentenced to a term of 30 years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord. He was paroled in 1992, but parole was revoked in 1994 after altercations which, the defendant admitted, had occurred under the influence of alcohol. He was paroled again in 1998.
In 2002, with the passage of the Sex Offender Registry Law, the defendant was classified as a level 2 sex offender, which meant that the public would have access to information about him through the police department and the Sex Offender Registry Board.
In 2006, a law was passed which required the imposition of GPS tracking on all parolees under court-ordered parole supervision for certain sex offenses. As a result of this legislation, the parole board required the defendant to wear a GPS monitor. The defendant appealed, and while the appeal was pending, he was reclassified as a level 1 sex offender and certain parole conditions were modified, but the GPS requirement remained.
In the meantime, the Supreme Judicial Court held in a separate case that the automatic retroactive application of a GPS condition to all probationers violated the federal and the state Constitution. However, the court also held that a sentencing judge retained the “discretionary power in an individual case” to require that a probationer wear a GPS monitor when setting the terms of probation.
In response, the parole board reviewed the defendant’s case, but re-imposed the GPS monitoring condition because of the crimes he committed while on parole, referring to the 1994 charges when he was first released on parole. The defendant continued to appeal this decision.
No Change In Circumstances
In reviewing the case, the Massachusetts Appeals Court noted that the parole board retained broad discretion in setting the conditions of parole. However, here the defendant had been on parole for eight years without incident, had complied with the terms of parole, and was described as a “model parolee” with “no problems.”
There was no evidence that there was any change in circumstances upon which to base the modification of parole to impose additional punishment for the prior crimes. The sole basis of the decision was the 1994 parole violation, from which the defendant had been re-paroled many years earlier. In the absence of any evidence of a change in circumstances, the GPS condition constituted an arbitrary deprivation of liberty and thereby violated the Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.
Seek Experienced Counsel
Even an accusation that a person has committed a sex crime can affect that person’s reputation for life. And the conditions imposed after a conviction can have a severe impact on all areas of a person’s life thereafter. Regardless of your situation, if you are accused of a sex crime, it is crucial that you are represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney who will work hard to defend you against the charges and protect your constitutional rights.