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Court rules on sex offender status decisions

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Tackling the issue of who determines whether a convicted sex offender is considered a “sexually violent predator,” the Indiana Court of Appeals today issued the latest ruling in a line of cases about the state’s sex offender registry and how convicts’ names are removed.

The state Department of Correction is not authorized to determine whether an offender is a sexually violent predator according to state law, Judge James Kirsch wrote for a unanimous appellate panel in Edwin G. Buss, in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction v. Michael L. Harris, No. 52A02-0911-CV-1088.

Arising out of Miami Circuit Court, the case involves a former inmate at the Miami Correctional Facility who pleaded guilty to felony child molesting in 1999 and was ultimately released on parole in 2002 and 2005, after being reincarcerated for parole violations. Harris learned in 2007 that, because of state statute revisions, he’d be designated as a sexually violent predator and would have to register for life. Harris refused to sign the forms for this twice, and sued on the issue in late 2007.

The case has been ongoing since then, with a bench trial in August 2009 where the trial court granted Harris’s requests for declaratory and injunctive relief and found that he should not be listed on the sex offender registry as a sexually violent predator. That court relied on the Indiana Supreme Court’s decisions last year in Wallace v. State, 905 N.E. 2d 371, 374-77 (Ind. 2009), and Jensen v. State, 905 N.E. 2d 384 (Ind. 2009).

Specifically, the DOC argues that Jensen applies to the instant case and that classifying him in that way doesn’t violate the man’s rights.

“We are left with the question, once an offender’s sentencing hearing has concluded, who makes the determination that an offender’s status is now, pursuant to amendments to the statute, that of a sexually violent predator subject to lifetime registration requirements?” the court asked. “If we were to adopt the State’s construction of the statutory provisions, an offender could, in theory, have completed his sentence and reporting requirement, yet without notice to him be in violation of lifetime reporting requirements by operation of law due to subsequent amendments … Nothing before us indicates that the legislature intended such as result.”

The trial court didn’t err in its decision, and the appellate panel relied largely on the case of Jones v. State, 885 N.E. 2d 1286 (Ind. 2008), to support its conclusion.
 

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  1. I will be filing a lawsuit in Tippecanoe County for so many violations in a case we became involved in, including failure to contact through mail, Violation of 4th Amendment rights, Violation of Civil Rights, and so on. Even the Indiana Ombudsmen Bureau found violations and I have now received the report and they are demanding further training in Tippecanoe County. I am going to make sure they follow through!!!

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  3. I thought the purpose of the criminal justice center was to consolidate all the criminal services and get them out of downtown to clean up the place. Why in the HELL are the civil courts moving? What a burden to all the downtown law firms. Now we all get to work downtown, but then have to get in a car and COMMUTE to court? Who approved this idiocy?

  4. I drive through the neighborhood whenever I go to the City-County Building or the Federal Courthouse. The surrounding streets are all two way with only two lanes of traffic, and traffic is very slow during rush hour. I hope that enough money has been allocated to allow for improvement of the surrounding streets.

  5. I have had an ongoing custody case for 6 yrs. I should have been the sole legal custodial parent but was a victim of a vindictive ex and the system biasedly supported him. He is an alcoholic and doesn't even have a license for two yrs now after his 2nd DUI. Fast frwd 6 yrs later my kids are suffering poor nutritional health, psychological issues, failing in school, have NO MD and the GAL could care less, DCS doesn't care. The child isn't getting his ADHD med he needs and will not succeed in life living this way. NO one will HELP our family.I tried for over 6 yrs. The judge called me an idiot for not knowing how to enter evidence and the last hearing was 8 mths ago. That in itself is unjust! The kids want to be with their Mother! They are being alienated from her and fed lies by their Father! I was hit in a car accident 3 yrs ago and am declared handicapped myself. Poor poor way to treat the indigent in Indiana!

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