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Is Lifetime satellite monitoring without judicial review constitutional?

On May 22, 2013 The Supreme Court of South Carolina found unconstitutional a provision in §23-3-540(C) and (H), commonly known as Jessica’s Law. That law mandates that “when an individual has been convicted of engaging in or attempting criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree (CSC-First) or lewd act on a minor, the court must order that person placed on satellite monitoring.” It also mandates that when a person has been convicted of these crimes and violates probation, “the individual must remain on monitoring for as long as he is to remain on the sex offender registry, which is for life.”
In the case before the Court, State v. Jennifer Rayanne Dykes, Appellate case number 2010-160047, the defendant had pled guilty to lewd act on a minor for her relationship with a fourteen year old female. She was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment, suspended upon the service of three years and five years’ probation. After her release from prison, she was put on probation and notified of the satellite monitoring if she violated her probation.
After violating probation (which did not involve re-offending as a sexual predator) the state recommended partial revocation of her probation and mandatory lifetime satellite monitoring. She objected to the sentence based on constitutional grounds, but the court found it was statutorily mandated to impose the sentence. She appealed on the grounds that under the fourteenth amendment no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The statute in question imposes a lifetime sentence of satellite monitoring, and there is no judicial review of the sentence. This means there is no option for the judge to impose it or limit it. The defendant must be on monitoring for the rest of her life.
The Court looked at the provision of this statute and found that “lifetime imposition of satellite monitoring implicates a protected liberty interest to be free from permanent, unwarranted governmental interference.” After reviewing the statute, they found the monitoring requirement to be constitutional, but found “the complete absence of any opportunity for judicial review to assess a risk of re-offending, which is beyond the norm of Jessica’s Law, is arbitrary and cannot be deemed rationally related to legislature’s stated purpose of protecting the public from those with a high risk of re-offending.” The Court further stated, “the only provision invalidated…is the portion…that prohibits only those convicted of CSC-First and lewd act on a minor from petitioning for judicial relief from satellite monitoring.”
In essence what the Court said in this decision is not that a person cannot be made to be on satellite monitoring for life, but that since the legislature’s intent was to protect society from predators and not to punish the offenders, there must be a mechanism for courts to review each case to decide whether that particular offender is highly likely to re-offend. If so, then lifetime monitoring is available. If not, the court may decide that monitoring for only a set timeframe is needed, and can be discontinued if the offender has not re-offended in that time.
If you have any questions or comments about this blog, please feel free to contact me on my blog, website (www.jimcourtneylaw.com) or call me at my office at 843-822-9800. I look forward to any comments or questions you might have. If you have any other questions, please feel free to look over my blog for answers to other questions you might have about criminal law and notable cases.

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