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Residency Laws are popular but ineffective laws. They have never been proven to be an effective crime control measure; instead, studies and actual experiences with residency restrictions have suggested these laws increase instability and create incentives to commit new crimes. Failure to register charges, homelessness, and even overall sex crime rates have increased in accordance with these laws. The more restrictive the law, the less available housing becomes available, compelling those registrants trying to live by the letter of the law to reside in the few unrestricted areas left in the area, forming clusters.
Iowa and South Florida had both passed tough residency laws with disastrous consequences. Iowa found an increase of homeless and absconding offenders, an increase of sex crime arrests and convictions, and clustering of registrants; in 2009, they scaled back residency laws for most registrants, but of the few that still must abide by the law, the same problems are still in effect. In Miami-Dade County, the homeless offenders have been shuffled around various locations across the county, from parking lots to under a bridge. Unlike Iowa, Florida legislators and courts continue to justify their laws and even seek to increase statewide restrictions as a “solution” to South Florida’s difficulties with the residency laws.
While the 2005 Doe v. Miller case upheld residency restrictions based on the civil/ regulatory argument of Smith v. Doe case of 2003, subsequent courts have disagreed with the findings of the 8th Circuit Courts. Courts applying the “Mendoza-Martinez” factors have determined residency restrictions are so onerous they cross the threshold into punitive regardless of intent. The restrictions are essentially a modern day banishment, meet the traditional aims of punishment/ retribution, and are excessive in their stated purpose. In regards to property owners, the act of forcing a registrant out of his or her home is similar to Eminent Domain or similar laws, and thus violates the Fifth Amendment protection against taking without just compensation. Other states have ruled that the traditional goals of rehabilitation and corrections, and even the alleged “civil” goals of Megan’s law overrule or preempt the goals of residency restrictions.
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