Under Current law any person convicted of a sex offense is the required to wear a GPS bracelet for the duration of their probation. That will all change as a result of the Supreme Judicial Court’s recent decision in Commonwealth v. Feliz. Now the judge will have to determine based on a defendant’s specific characteristics and facts of their case whether they should be required to wear a GPS bracelet while on probation. Wearing the GPS bracelet is no longer mandatory.
Up until the Feliz case, G.L. c. 265 § 47 required people convicted of non-contact sex offenses like possession or distribution of child pornography to wear a GPS bracelet while on probation. In its ground-breaking decision, the SJC held that requiring every single person convicted of a sex offense to wear a GPS electronic monitoring bracelet while on probation is UNCONSTITUTIONAL. The judge can still order someone to wear a GPS bracelet as part of their probation but the judge will have to make an individual determination of whether the Commonwealth’s reasons for imposing GPS outweighs the individual’s privacy rights. This is a high burden for the prosecutor to meet.
The Feliz decision, regarding a Level 1 non-contact offender, has given judges the power to decide whether someone should be required to wear a GPS bracelet-it is no longer mandatory. Since the defendant in Feliz had no history of violating the terms of his probation or terms of his pretrial release, did not have a psychiatric diagnosis related to sexually deviant activity, did not have a prior criminal record, had continued problems with ELMO connecting to his bracelet and did not live near any victims, the court said that it was unconstitutional to order him to wear a GPS bracelet while on probation. Most people convicted of possession or distribution of child pornography will be in a similar situation. We can now successfully argue you should not have to wear a GPS bracelet while on probation. Even if you have previously been convicted and ordered to wear a GPS bracelet, we can now go back to court and request the court remove the bracelet as a condition of your probation.
Right now, there are a shocking number of people on probation who must wear GPS bracelets in Massachusetts. The court estimated that probation is monitoring approximately 5,000 individuals. Of those 5,000 people, more than 3,400 are subject to GPS monitoring. This is an astronomical number of people who are having their every movement monitored. Even more concerning is that probation staff members respond to approximately 1,700 alerts a day- these alerts stem from a variety of issues such as connectivity issues, loss of signal, low battery, and tampering with the bracelet.
Because GPS monitoring is not as reliable as many people think, it can take between minutes and hours to resolve these alerts which puts probationers at risk of losing their employment and interfering with their day to day activities such as sleeping, making it to appointments on time, and participating in family events. When a probationer receives an alert, they must immediately stop what they are doing and follow probation’s instructions to resolve the signal issues no matter how long it takes. To resolve the signal issues, probationers are often instructed to go outside and if the issue doesn’t resolve a warrant often issues for their arrest. A probationer can be arrested because their GPS device lost the signal through no fault of their own and this happens all the time.
If you have been ordered to wear a GPS bracelet as part of your probation, and meet some of the same criteria as listed above, we can represent you in court and demand that probation condition be removed. If you are currently facing charges for a sex offense, we can defend you against the charges and against any attempt by the prosecutor to make you wear a GPS bracelet.