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COA: Park ban violates ex post facto laws

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Relying heavily on a recent Indiana Supreme Court decision regarding sex offenders and ex post facto laws, the Indiana Court of Appeals split in finding a city ordinance banning a convicted sex offender who no longer has to register with the state was punitive and unconstitutional as applied to him.

In Eric Dowdell v. City of Jeffersonville, No. 10A04-0811-CV-676, the appellate court used the recent rulings from the Supreme Court in Wallace v. State and another panel of the Court of Appeals in Doe v. Plainfield, 893 N.E.2d 1124 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008), which concerned a similar ordinance and is pending transfer.

Jeffersonville passed an ordinance in 2006 prohibiting sex offenders from entering public parks with very limited exemptions, such as to watch a minor relative play a sport. The sex offender must demonstrate good cause as to why he or she should be allowed into the park. Eric Dowdell was convicted of sexual battery in 1996, served his sentence, and was no longer required to register by the time the city passed the park ban. Dowdell sought a waiver to enter the park to be allowed to play a sport himself, which was denied twice by a City Court judge. He is appealing the denial of one of those requests.

Dowdell brought the suit for injunctive and declaratory relief, claiming the ordinance is facially unconstitutional and unconstitutional as applied to him. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the city.

Chief Judge John Baker and Judge Michael Barnes agreed with Dowdell and reversed summary judgment in favor of Jeffersonville. Although the majority declined to address his facial challenge because of the precedent set by Doe, it did find the ordinance to be unconstitutional as applied to him by using the seven factors set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 168-169 (1963).

The majority cited the Indiana Supreme Court's reasoning in Wallace to support their conclusion that six out of the seven factors - affirmative disability or restraint; sanctions that have historically been considered punishment; finding of scienter; traditional aims of punishment; application only to criminal behavior; and excessiveness - were punitive as applied to Dowdell.

The majority came to a different conclusion in some areas of the factors test than the panel that decided Doe, which the chief judge noted came down before Wallace was decided. The panel in Doe gave little or no weight to the factor of traditional aims of punishment, but this panel believed the factor is significant.

"We hold that as applied to Dowdell, the Ordinance violates the prohibition on ex post facto laws contained in the Indiana Constitution because it imposes burdens that have the effect of adding punishment beyond that which could have been imposed when his crime was committed," wrote Chief Judge Baker.

Judge Terry Crone came to a different conclusion in his dissent when he weighed the seven factors and believed the ordinance to be constitutional when applied to Dowdell. He only found two to be punitive when applied in this situation. He noted that while he is somewhat troubled by the limited nature of the available exemption for convicted sex-offenders, there is a mechanism in which Dowdell and others can seek relief and appeal if they are denied.

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  1. OK, now do something about this preverted anacronism

  2. William Hartley prosecutor of Wabash county constantly violates people rights. Withholds statement's, is bias towards certain people. His actions have ruined lives and families. In this county you question him or go out of town for a lawyer,he finds a way to make things worse for you. Unfair,biased and crooked.

  3. why is the State trying to play GOD? Automatic sealing of a record is immoral. People should have the right to decide how to handle a record. the state is playing GOD. I have searched for decades, then you want me to pay someone a huge price to contact my son. THIS is extortion and gestapo control. OPEN THE RECORDS NOW. OPEN THE RECORDS NOW. OPEN THE RECORDS NOW.

  4. I haven't made some of the best choices in the last two years I have been to marion county jail 1 and two on three different occasions each time of release dates I've spent 48 to 72 hours after date of release losing a job being denied my freedom after ordered please help

  5. Out here in Kansas, where I now work as a government attorney, we are nearing the end of a process that could have relevance in this matter: "Senate Bill 45 would allow any adult otherwise able to possess a handgun under state and federal laws to carry that gun concealed as a matter of course without a permit. This move, commonly called constitutional carry, would elevate the state to the same club that Vermont, Arizona, Alaska and Wyoming have joined in the past generation." More reading here: http://www.guns.com/2015/03/18/kansas-house-panel-goes-all-in-on-constitutional-carry-measure/ Time to man up, Hoosiers. (And I do not mean that in a sexist way.)

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