ILNews

Courts weigh in on sex-offender restrictions

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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A city's law prohibiting registered sex offenders from visiting parks or recreation areas is likely on its way to the Indiana Court of Appeals in what a civil liberties attorney said could be the first appellate case of its kind in the country.

A ruling from Hendricks Superior Judge Robert Freeze March 14 upholds a Plainfield ban of sex offenders in parks and recreational areas, finding the six-year-old local ordinance constitutional and not in violation of any guideposts established by the state or federal Supreme Courts.

Judge Freeze's five-page ruling means the Marion County man identified in court records as John Doe cannot visit the areas with his son, of whom he shares custody. He was convicted in 2001 of child exploitation and possession of child pornography, served time in jail, and was placed on probation until August 2004.

Doe was visiting the Splash Island water park with his young son in June 2005 when police warned him not to return because he was on the sex-offender registry.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the suit in November 2005, seeking a permanent injunction that would keep Plainfield from enforcing the ordinance it had adopted in 2002. The ordinance provided for a fine of $100 for anyone who violates the prohibition the first time and a $200 fine for each violation thereafter.

Doe won an Indiana Court of Appeals victory last year after appellate judges decided he could proceed with the suit anonymously because his safety could be jeopardized by releasing his full name. But he lost in the latest ruling when Judge Freeze wrote that the local ordinances are presumed constitutional unless specifically shown otherwise.

"The Ordinance is an administrative regulation designed to protect the users of Plainfield's parks and to protect the integrity of the parks themselves; it is not criminal or punitive in nature," the judge wrote, adding that some sexual predators target children they have access to, and some have a high incidence of re-offending.

"We're appealing," said Ken Falk, legal director of ACLU of Indiana. "This is a first in Indiana, and I don't know of any case in the country that deals with a ban (focused) solely on a person's placement on the sex-offender registry."

Indiana is well versed in legal challenges to local ordinances banning convicted sex offenders from entering certain areas; numerous suits have been filed across the state, including suits in Jefferson and Greenwood that remain pending. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has also upheld ordinances in Lafayette and Michigan City, and other trial judges have recently upheld laws restricting how close offenders can live to schools, day cares, and youth centers.

The Indiana Court of Appeals plans to consider a residency restriction during arguments set for March 31 in the Blackford County case Indiana v. Anthony W. Pollard, No. 05A02-0707-CR-640. The court is being asked to decide whether the trial court erred in finding that the 2006 statute limiting offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school property is ex post facto law as it applied to Pollard's 20-year residency. The argument will be at 2:30 p.m. at Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis.
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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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