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COA decides sex offender registration plea case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals today declined to ignore a year-old precedent from the state's highest court about sex offender registration, finding that the ruling still applies to cases where an offender once signed a plea agreement requiring him to follow lesser registration requirements.

Unanimously deciding Oscar Blakemore v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0907-CR-614, the appellate panel reversed a ruling from Marion Superior Commissioner Marie Kern that found Oscar Blakemore guilty of Class D felony failure to register as a sex offender.

Blakemore pleaded guilty in 1999 to felony sexual misconduct with a minor, and that document said he would "comply with the statutory requirements of registering with local law enforcement as a sex offender." He was released from probation in early 2000 - before state law was changed to include his offense on the registration list ­- but returned to prison for probation violations twice more through the years. He was finally released without any remaining probation requirements in February 2005, and he registered at least five times after that. In April 2008, police arrested him for failure to register as a sex offender.

Arguing that his newest conviction is unconstitutional, the Court of Appeals agreed when applying last year's Supreme Court decision in Wallace v. State, 905 N.E.2d 371, 377 (Ind. 2009). In that case, justices decided that Wallace's conviction for failure to register as a sex offender violated the state constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws because no registration requirement was in place at the time of his conviction. For Wallace, a plea agreement wasn't at issue as it is in Blakemore.

While the Indiana Attorney General's Office didn't explicitly argue that the registration requirement could be imposed on Blakemore without violating the ex post facto law, it did assert that the Wallace analysis "may be ignored" because Blakemore had agreed to follow statutory registration guidelines - even though the requirement being imposed on him for his 2008 arrest wasn't in place at the time of his plea agreement.

Applying contract law analysis and reviewing precedent, the appellate court ruled in Blakemore's favor. Judge Melissa May authored the opinion, with Judges Carr Darden and James Kirsch concurring.

"We therefore decline the State's invitation to ignore the Wallace analysis," Judge May wrote. "We decline to hold Blakemore 'agreed' to requirements the (Indiana) Code did not impose when he entered into that requirement."

In a later part of the ruling, Judge May addressed the state's assertion that Blakemore waived his ex post facto argument by not raising any constitutional concerns at the time of his guilty plea.

"As explained above, the 'constitutional concern' now before us did not exist when Blakemore entered into his plea agreement," she wrote. "Rather, his plea agreement contained a clause that by its very language did not apply to Blakemore, and neither he nor his counsel could be expected to predict what amendments our legislature might make to the sex offender registration act."

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  1. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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