Massachusetts enacted a law in 2006 that allows for GPS units to be placed on sex offenders on probation. Today, in Commonwealth v. Cory, the SJC, split 4-3 held that the 2006 law could not be enforced retroactively for offenders convicted before 2006. The reasoning of the court, namely, that it “burdens liberty” because it is a permanent intrusive attachment with continuous surveillance.
Sex offenders have a well documented high rate of recidivism and it is for this reason that the 2006 law passed despite the obvious Constitutional dilemma it proposed. As the SJC held today, public safety may have to give way to constitutional protections against government intrusion into the lives of citizens, including sex offenders.
It is a question that divides many of us and cuts to the center of Constitutional protections. What is more important, the rights of the criminal or the protection of potential victims? The ruling today makes this question much more difficult in Massachusetts.