ANNAPOLIS – Lawmakers considered several proposals to fight sexual crime Tuesday, including posting the names of sexual predators on the Internet, protecting community associations that announce when offenders move into the neighborhood and preventing police from making rape victims take lie detector tests.
But the proposals drew fire from the American Civil Liberties Union during a hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson, R-Carroll, sponsor of the bill to post sex offender’s names on the Internet, said integrating the new technology could go a long way toward fighting sexual crime.
“I think this is necessary,” Ferguson said, noting that 10 other states including Virginia have passed similar laws. “The Internet is there to be used for these purposes.”
Suzanne J. Smith of the ACLU said publicizing sexual offender’s names on the Internet encourages vigilantism, stigmatizes innocent family members and friends, and adds more punishment to individuals who have already served time for their crimes.
Smith warned that mistakes in posting the information could hurt innocent people. She said the national group already has received two complaints from people who were mistakenly put on Virginia’s sex offender website.
Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which maintains the current database with nearly 500 names of offenders, supports the bill. Under current law, anyone can get a copy of the list of sex offenders through a written request.
Department witnesses said they would exercise caution in using their new powers since the technology is still evolving.
“Traditional rules of ownership, copyright, privacy, security and liability are being rewritten on a daily basis,” said Rebecca Gowen, an administrator in the department.
Another sex offender bill that prevents registered sex offenders from suing community organizations for notifying neighbors when they move in also was opposed by the ACLU on the same privacy grounds.
And the polygraph bill drew criticism from the ACLU. Smith said it could be the only way for innocent defendants to be vindicated.
A 1995 Howard County rape inspired the bill, which would prevent rape victims from being compelled to take lie detector tests. After a woman told Howard County police that William Kirk Evans raped her, the officials asked her to take a four-hour polygraph test. She failed the test and Evans was released.
Six weeks later Evans raped two other women and eventually confessed to six rapes. Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, introduced the legislation to protect victims from further distress.
“(The woman’s) failure of the polygraph,” he said, “stands as proof that an already traumatized rape victim is further traumatized by the polygraph.”