How much power is too much?

(Names have been changed to protect identities.)

By Sandy Rozek—We’ve heard it all our lives: If you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear from law enforcement. But what if you are doing nothing wrong and law enforcement comports itself in such a way as to create fear?

When Ann heard the doorbell ring, and then ring again accompanied by pounding on the door, she looked out the window to see a sheriff’s car in her driveway. After the initial trepidation that even the most innocent of us feels when law enforcement shows up unexpected–is someone hurt, or worse? has something happened to my child?–she opened the door to a young officer with a federal marshal behind him. They wanted to know if her husband was at home, and a reply of no from Ann elicited a request to come in and go into the bedroom to verify that her husband did indeed live there.

Ann now knew, of course, what this was about. Her husband of 9 ½ years, Jeff, is on the sex offender registry in Ohio. He was convicted of a sexual offense thirty-three years ago. He served his punishment, including treatment and parole, and has been finished with his sentence for 11 ½ years. But he is not finished with registration; he will be on the Ohio Megan’s Law registry for the rest of his life.

She was confused though because Jeff had been verified as compliant a scant two months previously, and the two to three such checks done yearly are not normally so close together, and a marshal is not regularly part of the mix. They have lived in this location for five years with Jeff being in compliance the entire time.

“I stated that they could come back after my husband is home from work,” Ann said, ”and he typically leaves [work] at 3:30 p.m. After asking at least four times to come in my home and my continually telling them no, they remained astonished and shocked that I wouldn’t allow them. The last statement was, ‘So Ma’m, you’re not going to allow us into your home?’ And I replied, no I am not.”

In analyzing her feelings after the encounter, Ann described it as, “yet another instance of feeling so scrutinized,” and it being “so uncomfortable to feel like you live under a Gestapo regime today.”

Ann will garner little sympathy from those who feel that everyone on the registry should be tracked and monitored and punished for life. An opinion piece published March 31 in the Reporter articulates this feeling well: “The fundamental flaw I have with the process is that these persons have been deemed ‘safe enough’ to let out of prison, but they are still dangerous enough to warrant tracking and alerting neighbors to their presence….If we are still needing to track them, however, it sends the message they are not truly rehabilitated, and that their debt is not truly satisfied.” Those who subscribe to this will find no mercy for the inconvenience, discomfort, or even fear of a woman who knowingly married someone on the registry.

However, another aspect begs to be considered. The power given to law enforcement in dealing with citizens who are not on parole or probation but are on the registry, a non-punitive regulation, can easily result in abuse and violation of constitutional protections.

These officers knew that they could not enter Ann’s home without permission, yet they persisted to the point of intimidation. How many people, less staunch in their determination or less certain of their rights, would have been frightened enough to give in? How many are unsure whether or not they even have the right to refuse entrance to law enforcement? How many on the registry, and how many of their family members, have encountered negative experiences from officers, experiences that have taught them that their fate literally lies in the hands of those wearing uniforms and experiences that have rendered them reluctant to report abuse out of fear of retaliation?

I truly believe that the majority of law enforcement officers are doing their best to do a difficult job and to do it well and properly. I also believe that this is not true of all. I believe that there are some who, given power over another person, will use that power to release personal animosity and antipathy toward those they despise or to whom they feel superior, and registered sex offenders often fit this description quite well.

We need a better system of checks and balances, a system where a registered person or a family member can report situations where law enforcement has crossed the line, a system where the registrant feels safe in doing so and is safe in doing so.

No American citizen, once he has satisfied his debt to society, deserves to live with others having so much power over him that he is afraid to open his door and even more afraid if he doesn’t. 

someone outside of NARSOL

Written by 

Occasionally we will share articles that have been published elsewhere. This is a common practice as long as only a portion of the piece is shared; a full piece is very occasionally shared with permission. In either case, the author's name and the place of original publication are displayed prominently and with links.

8 Thoughts to “How much power is too much?”

  1. AvatarSaved by Grace

    In my county, when you are accused, you WILL be found guilty or you WILL take a plea bargain ( A VERY BAD ONE) UNLESS you are part of the “ruling cla$$”, then the $$ makes it go away. The DA, all LOE, and the network of “good ole boy lawyers” , Of whom you WILL end up with no matter who you start with, will treat you like you raped, mutilated, and ate all the little girls and boys in the county. That is after you have been paraded through EVERY newspaper and TV in 20 miles!! There are NO fair trials no matter the evidence!!

    1. AvatarJacob Roxberry

      I took the plea on exactly what you said. There is no fair trial. Ever. I took the plea in best in treat of myself. Best of all the “victim” I say that quoted because he is no victim in any way or form. Has been singing to the hills how I’ve never touched him and his mother and grandmother put him up to it. Brainwashed him into thinking I hurt him. Well as they say the truth comes out in the end. Anyways. I agree with your statement. This system is corrupt and how does a “lawman” like John Walsh enact a law that breaks the law? We are all victims here. I understand some of us worse than others but that does not give anyone authority to blindly break the law while trying to enforce the law. Every seat of authority and law who voted for the ada, have broken their oath to office and continue to break the law daily. Yet we get our nuts squeezed even after our sentence was served. Stay strong and fight this evil so no others can become the victims of state.

    2. AvatarFreddie B. Thornton

      I fathered a child with a minor back when I was 18 the law in Wisconsin said if one is a day older than 3 years that’s rap, I was 3 years & 10 months older than this then minor. However, her mother knew my age and let me have a relationship with her daughter but I didn’t know her daughter was 15 I was told she was 17 anyway I pleaded out to 4 years probation because I was told if I said that in court her mother would be the one in trouble I couldn’t live with myself if I had done that but I had just taken the plea because I just wanted out of jail at the time simply because I couldn’t take it in there at the time & 4 years of probation sounded like a gift from up above so I accepted it and was released from jail, only to be revoked 2 years later and receive a 6 year prison sentence for possessing drugs. I did my six years in full and months later a law came that turned my whole world upside down…I can’t go to parks, I can’t live in the city anymore, I can’t pick a family member up from school, I can’t keep a job my face is posted in city magazines as well as on the enternet, hell at times I’ve contemplated suicide. I never thought I could be free but be treated like less than a human being at the same time. By the way my son with her is now 26 & I can’t see life without him.

  2. AvatarNick

    I like other registered citizens encounter these unannounced and uninvited police visits. Here in Michigan there is no law sanctioning home visits, it is merely a police policy. The safest and easiest way to protect your rights in these encounters is simply not to answer the door. They will ring, they will knock, they will pound and they will yell but then they will go away. Have your attorney call them and find out what they want. They won’t play any intimidation games with them. Always maintain a relationship with a criminal defense attorney, your freedom may depend on it.

  3. AvatarJohn

    I get visits by the city police and also by the county police. The city policeman says that he just verifying if I knew what my next report date was and then he leaves. The county police send 2 officers, of which one will stand on the walkway in plain sight of my neighbors with a hand on the butt of his pistol. The other one will have a series of questions to ask me. They’re without a doubt, trying to intimidate me and believe me, it does. But I don’t want problems so I am cordial. I do step out on the porch, but I always lock the door and close it behind me. {I have a electronic entrance on my garage door) I answer only questions that are to verify whats on the registration, i.e., phone # email address, autos, etc. They always want to see my passport (I’m sure to look at the country stamps and dates), but I always say “no”, They always ask if I have computers in my house, and I always tell them he contents of my house is private and personal. They want to know if I have a “smart” phone and if they can see it, which is going to be answered no. Then of course they ask if they can come in and look around, which my answer is always no. I will say this about the police. They are not polite, Whenever I say “no” to what they want, they always step closer to me and say “why not” or “are you trying to hide something” or “just answer the question!!!!!!” They can act all day like they’re not coercing me, but when my heart is at 150 beats per minute, and my legs our burning like I’m gong to collapse any second, they know that I’m scared. But I still tell them no, because I know, that everything that they interpret or perceive me to say or do, can, and will be, used against me, in a court of law. I learned that 32 years ago and have never forgot it.

    1. AvatarNick

      You have nothing to gain and everything to lose if you answer the door.
      Why allow them to intimidate you, It’s your house! Posting a “No Soliciting” sign on your front door puts unwelcome visitors on notice.
      Once when a single state patrolman visited my house and I didn’t answer the door he climbed over my privacy fence and loudly banged and tried to open my back door. At which point I called 911 and informed the local police that somebody was trying to break into my house. It turned into an embarrassing encounter were a state patrolman had to explain his conduct to the local police. A police visitor with any sense will simply leave a card at which point you have your attorney return the call to find out what they want. When you avoid direct contact and have an attorney do the talking it puts them On notice that you are not playing their games

  4. AvatarEdward

    I can verify that all the replies above are entirely accurate. I am under a sentence of lifetime supervision, imposed by a biased judge – a woman – in the 11th circuit, in Miami, Florida. After a lifetime spent in the arts – an actor for 40 years, a commercially published author of three novels, a television documentary writer producer credited with over 250 productions, I was stunned to personally discover, in the course of my last production – truncated – that civil liberties in my native land had deteriorated to the point where simple journalistic curiosity was, from my naïve and ignorant point of view, and could be suddenly a heinous crime.
    I copped a plea on two counts – coerced of course by collusion between my public defender and her good buddy the prosecutor – both women, and both just as biased as the judge who sentenced me to eight years imprisonment followed by lifetime supervision. My life was smashed and destroyed from that moment onwards.
    A lot of my productions were about World War II and internationally broadcast. Quite a few involved the plight of the Jews in Nazi Germany, and how the allies refused to do anything about it throughout most of the war. Today in my own country, those convicted, rightfully or wrongfully of a sex offense are the new Jews constantly harassed by our very own United States Gestapo.
    Have our leaders forgotten what founding father Benjamin Franklin tried to impress upon us? “A society that is willing to trade civil liberties for security will ultimately retain neither, nor will it deserve to.”

  5. AvatarJoshua B.

    I just got out of prison last Friday. I registered as a sex offender Saturday and yesterday I get a phone call from the county sheriff’s office saying I can’t live with my mother, the only person I really have to stay with, because of the county law of not being aloud within 2500 feet of a school, public park, playground, daycare or public library. Why couldn’t they tell me this when I registered? I wish I knew. That’s why it irks me that they don’t tell you when you plead out or plead nolo contendre that you’re sentence is a life sentence in Florida. You get found guilty, go to prison, get released and continue to live in a prison of laws so vague and stringent that you have to over-analyze everything to make sure you don’t go back to prison.

Comments are closed.