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Justices issue sex-offender registration rulings

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Convicted sex offenders who've already served their sentences can't be forced to register for life by a newly enacted statute, but the Indiana Supreme Court is split on whether that lifetime requirement should be imposed on offenders who are still registering when the law is changed.

The state's highest court ruled on two companion cases today analyzing the Indiana Sex Offender Registration Act, a combination of statutes requiring defendants convicted of sex and certain other offenses to register with local law enforcement and disclose personal information. The cases are Richard P. Wallace v. State of Indiana, No. 49S02-0803-CR-138, and Todd Jensen v. State of Indiana, No. 02S04-0803-CR-137. Justices heard combined arguments May 15, 2008.

Wallace pleaded guilty to a sex offense against a child in 1989, and after serving his five-year sentence and probation he learned from law enforcement that new laws passed in 1994 and 2001 required him to register for life as a sex offender. He didn't register and was later convicted by a jury in 2007 for felony failure to register. The Court of Appeals rejected his arguments last year and affirmed the trial court.

In Jensen, the 1999 crimes resulted in the Allen County man being charged with child molesting counts and vicarious sexual gratification. He pleaded guilty in 2000 and received a sentence of three years in prison and three years probation, as well as having to register for 10 years after his time served.

Both argued the Indiana Sex Offender Registration Act violates the ex post facto prohibitions of both the Indiana and U.S. Constitutions because they'd committed the crime, been convicted, received sentences, and served them before any registration or notification was required. In Wallace's case, he'd served his entire sentence; Jensen had completed his prison time and probation, but was still continuing with his previously agreed to 10-year registration requirement.

Justice Robert D. Rucker authored both opinions, relying on seven factors laid out by the Supreme Court of the United States in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 168-69 (1963), about whether the statute is punitive or non-punitive.

In the unanimous, 18-page Wallace ruling, Justice Rucker wrote that the act in question "imposes burdens that have the effect of adding punishment beyond that which would have been imposed when his crime was committed." That decision reversed the judgment by Marion Superior Judge Lisa Borges.

But in the 13-page Jensen ruling, Justice Rucker and Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard concurred in finding that Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull was correct in her decision that Jensen be classified as a sexually violent predator and be required to register for life. Justice Frank Sullivan concurred in result with a separate opinion, while Justices Theodore Boehm and Brent Dickson dissented in their own opinion.

"We hold today in Wallace v. State that the registration requirement is punitive and therefore cannot constitutionally be applied to a person whose crime occurred before the statute was enacted," Justice Boehm wrote in Jensen. "The majority holds that the same conclusion does not apply to a person whose crime occurred at a time when only a ten-year registration was required. It is beyond dispute that a law extending the period of incarceration for a crime cannot apply to persons whose offense predates the effective date of that legislation .... It seems to me that if the registration requirement is punitive, extending its period is no less additional punishment than extending a period of incarceration, and equally violates the constitutional ban on ex post facto legislation."

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  1. The Conour embarrassment is an example of why it would be a good idea to NOT name public buildings or to erect monuments to "worthy" people until AFTER they have been dead three years, at least. And we also need to stop naming federal buildings and roads after a worthless politician whose only achievement was getting elected multiple times (like a certain Congressman after whom we renamed the largest post office in the state). Also, why have we renamed BOTH the Center Township government center AND the new bus terminal/bum hangout after Julia Carson?

  2. Other than a complete lack of any verifiable and valid historical citations to back your wild context-free accusations, you also forget to allege "ate Native American children, ate slave children, ate their own children, and often did it all while using salad forks rather than dinner forks." (gasp)

  3. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  4. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  5. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

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