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‘The State is the State’ and they share the same fate, Supreme Court rules

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The Indiana Department of Correction’s motion to obligate a convicted sex offender to continue registering was blocked by the Indiana Supreme Court on the grounds that “the State is the State.”

The Indiana Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order granting the DOC’s motion to correct error in Ronald G. Becker v. State of Indiana, 45S03-1301-CR-9. It ruled res judicata barred DOC from bringing the motion because the department and the county prosecutor are in privity as “the State.”

After being convicted of criminal deviate conduct, a Class B felony, Ronald Becker was initially required to register annually as a sex offender for 10 years. However, after the Legislature amended the state, Becker was classified as a sexually violent predator and required register every 90 days for his lifetime.

Becker petitioned to be relieved from the additional SVP obligations, arguing they were an unconstitutional ex post facto law as applied to him. The court agreed and ordered in 2008 that classifying him retroactively as an SVP was unconstitutional. The prosecutor did not appeal the order and the DOC did not intervene to challenge it.

Later, the state entered into an Agreed Order, saying that Becker had satisfied his registration obligations under the 10-year statute and was no longer required to register.

Less than two weeks later, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled on Lemmon v. Harris, 949 N.E. 2d 803 (Ind. 2011), which rejected an ex post facto argument. The Indiana Attorney General subsequently intervened on behalf of the DOC, arguing Becker’s registration obligation from 10 years to life was not an ex post facto violation.

The trial court granted the DOC motion to correct error and ordered Becker to register every three months for the rest of his life.

In its review, the Supreme Court concluded the DOC’s interests were represented by the local prosecutor and, therefore, they are in privity for purposes of res judicata. Therefore, the 2008 Order is binding against the DOC.

“If the res judicata shoe were on the other food in this case, Becker would be hard-pressed to avoid its preclusive effects,” Justice Loretta Rush wrote for the court. “There is, after all, only one of him, with no alter egos to intervene on his behalf if a law later changed in a way favorable to his position. Final judgments in a criminal case should be similarly binding against ‘the State’ – not just the prosecutor, but also the various alter egos of the State whose substantial interests are adequately represented by the prosecutor.”

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  1. I can understand a 10 yr suspension for drinking and driving and not following the rules,but don't you think the people who compleate their sentences and are trying to be good people of their community,and are on the right path should be able to obtain a drivers license to do as they please.We as a state should encourage good behavior instead of saying well you did all your time but we can't give you a license come on.When is a persons time served than cause from where I'm standing,its still a punishment,when u can't have the freedom to go where ever you want to in car,truck ,motorcycle,maybe their should be better programs for people instead of just throwing them away like daily trash,then expecting them to change because they we in jail or prison for x amount of yrs.Everyone should look around because we all pay each others bills,and keep each other in business..better knowledge equals better community equals better people...just my 2 cents

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  4. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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