`

Hartford City sex offender ordinance unconstitutionally vague

December 2, 2016

A 2008 Hartford City ordinance that restricted registered sex offenders from entering or loitering within 300 feet of broadly defined “child safety zones” is unconstitutionally vague, a federal judge has ruled.

Brian Valenti challenged a 2008 ordinance after he moved to the Blackford County community in 2014 with his wife and minor child. Valenti was required to register as a sex offender for his 1993 California conviction of a sex offense involving a child under the age of 14.

The Hartford City ordinance, which was amended in 2015, imposed a fine of up to $200 per offense for registered sex offenders who entered or loitered within 300 feet of parks, schools, public libraries, arcades, amusement centers, swimming pools, child care facilities, athletic complexes, crisis centers or shelters, skate parks or rinks, movie theaters, bowling alleys, scouting facilities or the office of protective services.

Valenti argued the local ordinance caused him to curtail activities with his child. He said he was given a citation while a passenger in his brother’s car while the car was parked at his brother’s house across the street from a school.

Judge Theresa Springmann in the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division, granted Valenti summary judgment in part, finding the ordinance violates Indiana’s ex post facto law as applied to Valenti, and that it’s unconstitutionally vague.

The ordinance “encouraged arbitrary enforcement by failing to describe with sufficient particularity what activity violated the ordinance” and was “unconstitutionally vague on its face,” Springmann wrote in an order issued Thursday.

Though Springmann wrote that she was troubled by the amended ordinance that sought to clarify who could be subject to fines and further define prohibited loitering, she stopped short of striking the revised city code. She did forbid Hartford City, though, from ordering fines under the amended ordinance, finding its language also violates the 14th Amendment.

Springmann said a future conference will be set to consider Valenti’s damages. The case is Brian Valenti et al. v. Hartford City, Indiana, 1:15-cv-63. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Recent Articles by IL Staff