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COA upholds violent offender registration

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that the state's sex and violent offender registry doesn't violate the Indiana Constitution by requiring violent offenders to register for a 10-year period or for life. The appellate court also overturned a Marion Superior Court judge's grant of a preliminary injunction barring lifetime registration by certain violent offenders, finding the injunction should only apply to a specific subclass of offenders.

In James Gibson, Mark Lamar, and John Doe, and others similarly situated v. Indiana Department of Correction, et al., No. 49A04-0803-CV-165, Gibson and other plaintiffs challenged the amendments to Indiana's statute creating a sex and violent offender registry, which required violent offenders to register for either 10 years or for a lifetime depending on the crime and other circumstances. The plaintiffs are all violent offenders and believe the recently amended statute, Indiana Code Section 36-2-13-5.5, violates Article I, Sections 12 and 23 of the state's constitution.

The plaintiffs argue the registry violates the Privileges and Immunities clause in Section 23 because it requires registration by people convicted of only certain crimes that caused death. The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the registry is for people who "have demonstrated intentional violent deadly behavior towards another person."

Those who commit lesser crimes that happen to result in death haven't demonstrated the intentional violent deadly behavior toward another person that would require compliance with the registry, wrote Judge Terry Crone. There are sufficient inherent differences between murder, felony murder, voluntary manslaughter, and attempts to commit those crimes as compared to other offenses resulting in death that allow the General Assembly to specify different treatment, the judge continued.

The appellate court also affirmed the registry doesn't violate Section 12 because there is some recidivism among violent offenders, which means community notification about violent offenders provides an opportunity for enhancing public safety. Requiring violent offenders to register for at least some period of time meets the low threshold of rational relation, wrote Judge Crone.

The plaintiffs failed to meet the requirements for a preliminary injunction on registration, except for a small subset who have been more than 10 years removed from the date of release from prison, placed on parole or probation, put in community corrections, and aren't violent sexual predators. The Court of Appeals reversed the grant of a preliminary injunction against lifetime registration for all violent offenders and remanded with instructions to clarify the preliminary injunction consistent with the opinion. A violent offender is required to comply with the registry for 10 years unless he or she also falls within a subsection of the statute requiring lifetime registration, wrote Judge Crone.

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