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Sex offender’s home ownership doesn’t impact residency restriction

July 17, 2012

A convicted sex offender who argued that a probation condition prohibiting him from living within 1,000 feet of a school is unduly restrictive on his property interest in a home he owns lost his appeal before the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Mark Gaither committed child molesting in 1995 and 1996 but wasn’t convicted until August 2008. As part of his probation and parole, he isn’t allowed to live within 1,000 feet of school property. He owns a home in Muncie that is within 1,000 feet of a middle school, and he wants to live there. The statute requiring that sex offenders on probation/parole be prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a school was enacted in 1999.

Gaither claims because he committed his offenses before the statutes were enacted, he isn’t subject to them and the residency restriction placed on him violates the ex post facto clause of the Indiana Constitution.

Even though his probation has since expired, the COA ruled on the case because of public importance.

Gaither tried to distinguish his case from Hevner v. State, 919 N.E.2d 109 (Ind. 2010), in which the Indiana justices ruled that Hevner, who had been convicted of a sex offense, was subject to conditions of probation, including living within 1,000 feet of a school. Gaither claimed that because he owned his home before he committed the child molesting, he should be allowed to stay in it.

The justices “made no distinction between ownership and mere residency, and the fact that an offender owns a home in which he is not allowed to reside during his term of probation or parole is immaterial in determining whether a condition of probation or parole is related to an offender’s rehabilitation, while protecting the public,” wrote Judge John Baker.

The appellate court ruled in Mark Gaither v. Indiana Dept. of Correction, et al.,18A02-1111-MI-1073, that Indiana courts have held that prohibiting a sex offender from living within 1,000 feet of a school as a condition of probation is reasonably related to the offender’s rehabilitation and is permissible.

 

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