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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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