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SJC upholds GPS monitoring of sex offenders

The state’s highest court has rejected a challenge to the state law that requires GPS monitoring during probation for people convicted of certain sex offenses involving a child.

The court said the law gave judges no discretion on whether to impose the GPS monitoring during probation, and the Legislature had good reasons for enacting the law.

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“Permissible legislative objectives concerning criminal sentencing include deterrence, isolation and incapacitation, retribution and moral reinforcement, as well as reformation and rehabilitation. ... The provisions of [the law] reasonably can be viewed as serving many, if not all, of these goals,” the court said in an opinion written by Justice Barbara Lenk.

“The Legislature permissibly has determined that the risk of being subjected to GPS monitoring might deter future or repeat offenders. The Legislature similarly was free to conclude that enabling police to track the movements of all convicted sex offenders would promote the security and well-being of the general public,” the ruling said.

The court ruled in the case of Jose Guzman, who was convicted of dissemination of visual material depicting a child in a state of nudity or sexual contact, one of the sex offenses involving children that require GPS-monitored probation. A lower court judge had declined to order the GPS monitoring, but the high court said that was a legal error.

The court rejected Guzman’s claim that the law violated due process rights. It also said there wasn’t enough information brought forward to rule on his claim that the law violated constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

The court noted that it did have concerns about GPS monitoring during probation when it is required “regardless of any individualized determination” of a person’s dangerousness or risk of reoffending.

But the court said that that debate had “already been settled on the floor of the Legislature.”

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