West Virginia Sex Offender System Watered Down – and sometimes unjust

From the Register-Herald today:

A Beckley man has been arrested and charged with his second offense of “failure to register as a sex offender.” Well, the guy was registered, you can look it up yourself on the WV Sex Offender registry, found here.

What crime did he commit? His wife (presumably) bought a car and it had his name on it. He didn’t notify the State Police within the required amount of days the statute requires. If you didn’t know, a conviction as a sex offender requires the person to notify the State Police anytime they do or buy anything.

I don’t have a problem with this when it comes to real sex offenders – you know, the child abductors and child molesters, etc. In fact I think we should increase the penalties and protections against these predators. But any “sexually-motivated” conviction brings the requirement to register as a sex offender for life. That waters down the purpose of the sex offender registry. Not every sex offender is dangerous. Not every sex offender deserves to be subjected to the sex offender registry.

What about the guy charged in this case? A glance at his “offender details” reveals that he was convicted in the year 2000 of two counts of 3rd degree sexual abuse. He was given a suspended sentence and 15 months probation – so he did not do any jail time. What is “3rd degree sexual abuse” exactly, and how is that different from 3rd degree “sexual assault?.” Third degree sexual “assault” in West Virginia is essentially statutory rape – sexual intercourse between someone 16 or under and someone over 16 and also 4 years older than the “victim.” I put “victim” in quotes because many times the “victim” is absolutely old enough to be responsible for his or her actions and that fact should not be ignored. The “Assault” charge is a felony and carries up to 5 years in prison.

Third degree sexual “abuse” occurs when one person subjects another person to “sexual contact” without the latter’s consent, when such lack of consent is due to the victim’s incapacity to consent by reason of being less than 16 years old. What is “sexual contact?” It could be slapping someone on the rear-end, or an improper touching of any sort. It doesn’t take much. Actually it could just be a lie. Poor saps are convicted all the time from some 15 or 16 year old girls testimony before a jury, and without much more evidence – and it could very well be a lie. The only defense to this is a good lawyer who can talk some sense into the jury.

Lastly, the victim must be less than 16 years old. That means that the old-farts in the state legislature decided that a young girl on the day before her 16th birthday is absolutely incapable of forming her own decisions, she cannot consent to sexual conduct, but one day later, this 16 year old girl can have all the sexual escapades that she wants. In one magical day, she has become a wise and responsible adult.

So what about the guy in the article? I have no idea what the facts in the case are, but it could be relatively minor, or he even could be innocent. On the other hand, he could have done something more serious and pled down to this charge. Who knows. The point is, that even for relatively minor “sex offenses,” non-dangerous people are subjected to a life of being charged with felonies every time they buy a new car or go on vacation. The charge they put on this guy is a felony and brings 10 to 25 years. And the original charge that he was convicted of was a misdemeanor and only carried a potential penalty of up to 90 days in jail… Think about that. But hey, just like lawyers, these people do not make sympathetic victims and no one is going to help them.

You can read the full article here.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.

4 thoughts on “West Virginia Sex Offender System Watered Down – and sometimes unjust

  1. i agree with your article whole hearted cause i myself serveed 13 months in huttonsville for 3rd degree sexual assault in which the female and her sister lied about her age saying she was 17 and yes she looked that age and more and she also stated that she was 17 on her myspace page and my lawyers state this to the judge but it didn’t help now I’m a registered sex offender with a 4yr degree and 1yr1/2 away from achieving my masters degree in physical education while my life is torn cause of a lie her life continues with no worries

  2. I agree with you. WV state refused to accept low-risk sex offenders being in 10 to 15 years registry. Now, low-risk sex offenders (misdmeanors) must requires lifetime registry!!! That is wrong!!!! We need to change the law because of saving our taxpayers’ money. You see that Ohio and Pa sex registry laws that ohio has 15, 25 or lifetime registry; and PA has 10 and lifetime registry. One of my friends convicted of misdmeanor statonary rape and 10 years registry. I read some of wv sex offenders (misdmeanors)for lifetime instead of 10 years registry. that is wrong and waste of our taxpayers’ money…

  3. This type of thing happens all the time in WV and no one cares. I was convicted of 3 non sexual crimes (2 of them actually being the same crime but I got sentenced twice anyways) and since the judge found them sexually motivated I now have to register. It doesn’t make any sense.

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