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Justices deny sex offender park ban case

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The Indiana Supreme Court has declined after nine months to accept a case asking whether registered sex offenders can be banned from parks and recreational areas.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana had asked the state's justices to grant transfer in John Doe v. Town of Plainfield, No. 32A01-0803-CV-133, after the Court of Appeals ruled in September 2008. The appellate panel affirmed a Hendricks Superior judge's decision and upheld the town's ordinance restricting offenders from visiting parks, finding that the Indiana Constitution doesn't ensure a person's right to enter a public park.

Justice Theodore Boehm was the only justice who wanted to accept transfer, according to the appellate court's online docket listing for Thursday.

The ACLU of Indiana's legal director, Ken Falk, filed a transfer petition to the state's highest court in mid-October, and the case was subsequently funneled to the court for consideration after briefing. The docket entry shows the justices received the request Nov. 19.

The Court of Appeals ruling was the first state appellate decision addressing the issue in Indiana, Falk said, and it's expected to impact other pending cases involving similar ordinances throughout the state.

In the transfer petition, Falk argued the ordinance represents ex post facto punishment, burdens constitutionally protected privacy rights, and is not rationally related to the legitimate government purpose of protecting people in those parks.

"This case now stands for the proposition that the mere potential of recidivism, without more, is sufficient to ban former offenders from public places," the petition states. "Ultimately, therefore, the question presented is whether the Indiana Constitution can tolerate these types of restrictions."

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