People who are convicted of certain sex offenses in Denver, Adams, and Jefferson County and across Colorado are required to register as sex offenders in the jurisdiction where they live. In recent news, a new app on Facebook is taking sex offender registration to a new level. This app targets sex offenders in an alarming way. Let's look closer at this app, and how it is dangerous and unconstitutional.
The Dangers of the Friend Verifier App
According to a video produced by the Friend Verifier App, this add-on to Facebook allows you to scan all your friends against the United States Sex Offender Registry. This way, you can tell if your friends are on the list and act accordingly. There are a few things which scare me about this app: 1) Sex offenders will become targets, 2) sex offender's privacy rights are being ignored, 3) that mistakes will be made due to inaccuracies of the app, and 4) a sex offender's deregistration may not be considered.
Sex Offenders Targeted
People don't understand what the term “sex offender” really means. A person can be a registered sex offender in Douglas, Arapahoe, and El Paso County for peeing in public one too many times during college. Someone can be a registered sex offender after grabbing someone's butt in a bar after too many drinks. Good people are falsely accused and overcharged in Colorado all the time, and must suffer the consequences and register as sex offenders. This label prevents them from getting certain jobs and restricts where they can live. The Friend Verifier App makes it easy for everyone to discover if their friends are registered sex offenders. What will they do if they find a friend on the list? Ostracizing sex offenders doesn't allow them to reintegrate back into society, and according to multiple studies, actually causes them to reoffend. What happens if someone decides to take revenge on the nearest sex offender because of a personal vendetta?
Sex Offender's Rights Are Ignored
Being a registered sex offender shouldn't negate a person's constitutional rights. Last year, a case went to the Colorado Supreme Court. The city of Englewood had so many restrictions on where a sex offender could live, they were effectively banned from living anywhere within the city. The court ruled this was unconstitutional. As a result, many cities are scaling back their restrictions. The general consensus among the public is that sex offenders shouldn't have any rights because of their past. This is a twisted view of justice. The Friend Verifier App takes away sex offender's right to privacy in Colorado.
Mistakes Can Be Made
Another thing that scares me about this app is its inaccuracy. There are three levels of how well a person matches the database – yellow if their name matches, orange if their name and location match, and red if the name, location, and date of birth matches the database. This leaves a lot of room for error. What if someone sees that a name matches and doesn't take the time to verify it's the same person on the registry? How many John Smiths are there in the U.S.? An innocent person's reputation could be destroyed in a moment. Local sex offender registry provides accurate information. If a person wants to find sex offenders in their area, they can visit the website themselves and find the name, photo, location, and information of any sex offender on the list. But, allowing people to search via an app which is inaccurate leaves room for errors in judgment.
Sex Offender Deregistration Issues
Once registered, sex offenders can petition a court to deregister. Courts look at the underlying crime, the treatment a sex offender has passed, community risk, District Attorney objections and how long ago the crime occurred. If a court permits the sex offender deregistration their name is off the list. We are concerned that the Friend Verifier App will continue listing men and women who have deregistered, subjecting them to continued scrutiny after a judge released them from this burden.
Don't Use Apps Which Violate Privacy and Rights
Here at the O'Malley Law Office, we fight hard to protect the constitutional rights of our clients. This is why we don't condone using apps like the Friend Verifier App. You may think sex offenders shouldn't have rights, but many good (and in many cases innocent) people are unfairly labeled. Sex offenders need to be treated with respect and allowed to reintegrate back into society. Without our help and guidance, they have no hope for living a renewed life.