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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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