Judge: Sex offender law goes too far

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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Those registered sex offenders who've served their time and are no longer on probation or under court supervision cannot be required to give blanket consent to authorities for home and computer searches, the U.S. District Court Southern District of Indiana's chief judge ruled late afternoon on June 24.

U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton in Indianapolis struck down a major portion of a new law set to take effect July 1, which would have required all convicted sex offenders to agree to have their personal computers searched at any time and allow Internet access to be monitored. That applied to all those on the statewide sex-offender registry, including those no longer serving sentences, on probation, or under any type of court supervision. Not complying would be a felony.

But the revised Indiana Code Section 11-8-8-8(b) goes too far, Judge Hamilton ruled in his 51-page opinion in John Doe and Steve Morris, et al. v. Marion County Prosecutor, et al., No. 1:08-CV-0436-DFH-TAB, a class-action suit filed in April by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana against all county prosecutors and sheriffs. Judge Hamilton heard arguments May 30.

The judge stopped short of striking down the entire statute, only declaring unconstitutional the portion that would have applied to convicted sex offenders no longer on probation, on parole, or under court supervision.

"The new law forces an unconstitutional choice upon these plaintiffs. They must choose now between committing a new crime by refusing to consent and giving up their Fourth Amendment rights to privacy and security in their homes, their 'papers,' and their effects," he wrote. "The unprecedented new law, however well-intentioned it may be, violates the Fourth Amendment rights of the plaintiff class, who have completed their sentences and are no longer on probation, parole, or any other kind of court supervision."

Judge Hamilton poked holes in the state's legal arguments, noting that there are no limits on the scopes of allowable searches under this law and citing City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32, 42 (2000), which involved random vehicle checkpoints designed to catch drug users and traffickers. The U.S. Supreme Court held that was unconstitutional and Judge Hamilton used that case to note that "a general interest in crime control" doesn't justify this consent law for sex offenders because it also doesn't justify abandoning the Fourth Amendment's requirement of individualized suspicion.

He also pointed out that the parties have not cited and he wasn't able to find any American law that "attempts to authorize such a broad intrusion on personal privacy and security, without a warrant, probable cause, or even reasonable suspicion, for persons" not under the court's control.

The judge didn't rule on whether this law can be considered constitutional to other convicted sex offenders outside this plaintiff class, noting that is left "for another day."

The Indiana Attorney General's office is reviewing whether it will appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, according to spokeswoman Staci Schneider.

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.