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. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.