Courts weigh in on sex-offender restrictions

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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A city's law prohibiting registered sex offenders from visiting parks or recreation areas is likely on its way to the Indiana Court of Appeals in what a civil liberties attorney said could be the first appellate case of its kind in the country.

A ruling from Hendricks Superior Judge Robert Freeze March 14 upholds a Plainfield ban of sex offenders in parks and recreational areas, finding the six-year-old local ordinance constitutional and not in violation of any guideposts established by the state or federal Supreme Courts.

Judge Freeze's five-page ruling means the Marion County man identified in court records as John Doe cannot visit the areas with his son, of whom he shares custody. He was convicted in 2001 of child exploitation and possession of child pornography, served time in jail, and was placed on probation until August 2004.

Doe was visiting the Splash Island water park with his young son in June 2005 when police warned him not to return because he was on the sex-offender registry.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the suit in November 2005, seeking a permanent injunction that would keep Plainfield from enforcing the ordinance it had adopted in 2002. The ordinance provided for a fine of $100 for anyone who violates the prohibition the first time and a $200 fine for each violation thereafter.

Doe won an Indiana Court of Appeals victory last year after appellate judges decided he could proceed with the suit anonymously because his safety could be jeopardized by releasing his full name. But he lost in the latest ruling when Judge Freeze wrote that the local ordinances are presumed constitutional unless specifically shown otherwise.

"The Ordinance is an administrative regulation designed to protect the users of Plainfield's parks and to protect the integrity of the parks themselves; it is not criminal or punitive in nature," the judge wrote, adding that some sexual predators target children they have access to, and some have a high incidence of re-offending.

"We're appealing," said Ken Falk, legal director of ACLU of Indiana. "This is a first in Indiana, and I don't know of any case in the country that deals with a ban (focused) solely on a person's placement on the sex-offender registry."

Indiana is well versed in legal challenges to local ordinances banning convicted sex offenders from entering certain areas; numerous suits have been filed across the state, including suits in Jefferson and Greenwood that remain pending. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has also upheld ordinances in Lafayette and Michigan City, and other trial judges have recently upheld laws restricting how close offenders can live to schools, day cares, and youth centers.

The Indiana Court of Appeals plans to consider a residency restriction during arguments set for March 31 in the Blackford County case Indiana v. Anthony W. Pollard, No. 05A02-0707-CR-640. The court is being asked to decide whether the trial court erred in finding that the 2006 statute limiting offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school property is ex post facto law as it applied to Pollard's 20-year residency. The argument will be at 2:30 p.m. at Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis.

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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.