The issue is on the discretionary decision made by the judge in sentencing a student who was arrested charged and convicted of sexual assault for engaging in sexual act with an unconscious victim. The judge, in exercising his discretion ordered a jail sentence of six months with a lifetime registration as a sex offender. The judge, in reaching his decision relied on the California Penal Code section 261 (a)(2-4) which provides for the crime of rape and its punishment thereof. In defining what the crime of rape entails, the Statute defines it as an act of sexual intercourse accomplished against a person’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the person or another. Further, in defining the Actus Reus of Rape, the statute provides that the same can be done to a person in unconscious situation by intoxicating or anesthetic substance or any controlled substance and this condition was reasonably known by the accused. And where a person is at the time unconscious of the nature of the act, the accused ought to have the knowledge of the same and the victim meets the conditions of the “unconscious of the nature of the act” if he/she is incapable of resisting because the victim was unconscious or asleep or was not aware, knowingly, or perceiving, or cognizant that the act occurred. From the set of facts provided, it is on record that the victim was in a state of being unconscious, hence the Actus Reus was proved. The sentence thereof of the crime is punishment for 3, 6, or 8 years, as well as a fine not exceeding $70 which is paid towards AIDS education. However, due to the pre-sentencing report from the probation recommended a jail sentence of less than a year of confinement, the judge exercised his discretion and sentenced the accused person to a jail sentence of six months with a lifetime registration as a sex offender.
The decision as reached by the judge has got some negative impacts on the accused person. The first one is that he will be incarcerated for six months as per the judge’s decision in line with the recommendation of the probation officer. This will deprive him his liberty as encompassed under the Constitution of the United States. Second, the sentencing will have a lifetime impact on the accused person as he has been registered as a sex offender for a lifetime. The consequences of being labeled as a lifetime sex offender are punitive in nature, and not unless a court discharges you, you will remain in the registry as a lifetime sex offender with a plethora of negative effects. Such effects includes prohibition against the offenders from living within a certain distance of gathering places for children such as parks, schools etc., which is difficult in finding a house that meets all your requirements (Easley, 2020).The other negative effect of being registered as a lifetime sex offender is restricted employment; you are limited to certain jobs only and to specified work places only (Michael, 2020). The penultimate negative effect is decreased privacy as the registry is meant to keep previous negative information about the offender; the privacy is curtailed to great lengths. Finally, the negative effect of being registered as such is that there is a bias, prejudice and intolerance from friends and family and the right thinking members of the society as one is labeled as an outcast.
Liberty appears in the due process clauses of both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution which means freedom from arbitrary and unreasonable restraint upon an individual. Further, the US Supreme Court in the case of Meyer v Nebraska stated that liberty denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint, but also the right of the individual to contract, and engage in any of the common occupations of life. Under the Human Rights Act, the right to liberty and freedom encompasses the right to be free and the state can only imprison you with a very good reason once you are convicted of a crime. One of the objectives of any criminal justice system including US is rehabilitation; this is the hope that a criminal offender will be reformed. It is my view that, at the end of the incarceration, the offender will have reformed and hence, the registration as a life time sex offender is against this objective (McKenzie, 2016).
The Human Rights Act, 1998, available at https://libertyhumanrights.org.us
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