Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Good cause requirement for sex offender registration interpreted broadly

In State v. Hicks, Hicks was indicted for criminal sexual conduct with a minor (Victim). At trial, Hicks pled guilty to the lesser offense of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. (ABHAN). Although ABHAN, the crime to which Hicks pled guilty, is not included in the list of crimes for which sex offender registration is required under Section 23-3-430 of the South Carolina Code , Section D of the statute provides that:"[U]pon conviction, adjudication of delinquency, guilty plea, or plea of nolo contendere of a person of an offense not listed in this article, the presiding judge may order as a condition of sentencing that the person be included in the sex offender registry if good cause is shown by the solicitor." The judge required Hicks to register as a sex offender. Hicks appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed:

Hicks contends the State failed to show “good cause” sufficient to require him to register as a sex offender. In the reconsideration hearing, the court heard from Victim’s father that, contrary to defense counsel’s statement during the initial sentencing, Hicks did indeed know where Victim lived; Hicks lived within a half mile of Victim’s house. Describing the nature of Hicks’ behavior, Victim’s father stated Hicks had been by Victim’s house on numerous occasions, both before and after the ABHAN. During the course of several of these occurrences, Hicks made gestures towards Victim’s father that could be interpreted as confrontational or predatory.

The court also heard from Victim’s mother a second time, but she was limited to providing information she had not given during the initial sentencing. She confirmed Victim’s father’s statement that, not only did Hicks know where Victim lived, but that it was her understanding from Victim that Hicks had actually been in Victim’s house on two occasions. This new information combined with the previous statements Victim’s mother made regarding the many girls, similar in age to Victim, who lived in the same neighborhood within a half mile of Hicks, supports the circuit court’s finding that good cause was shown.

This seems pretty flimsy to have someone register as a sex offender. So Hicks knows where the Victim lives and has mad gestures towards her. The circuit court already had included as a condition of probation that Hicks not live within five miles of Victim’s family and have no contact with the family or Victim. That seems a much better and more logical protection than having him register as a sex offender.

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