Alaska Supreme Court Rules Law Requiring All Sex Offenders to Register is Unconstitutional

The Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state’s sex offender registry law violates offenders’ right to due process.

The court voted 3-2 finding the law requiring all offenders to register unconstitutional, unless offenders are first given the opportunity to demonstrate they aren’t a danger to the public.

According to the Alaska Sex Offender Registry Act, anyone convicted of a sex offense or child kidnapping is required to register personal information, including their place of employment and residential address, into a statewide public database. Any sex offender convicted after January 1, 1999 is required to register quarterly.

An unnamed sex offender sued the Department of Public Safety over the registry in 2016, arguing the law violates the state constitution’s due process clause, as well as his right to privacy.

The unnamed sex offender moved to Alaska three years after being convicted of aggravated sexual battery in Virginia in 2000. He argued that the state didn’t have legal jurisdiction to make him register because his crime was committed in a different state.

The court ruled that the state does have the right to require out-of-state offenders to register, but didn’t agree with penalizing rehabilitated sex offenders without offering them any relief from the registry’s consequences.

The justices took issue with the current law’s lack of recourse for rehabilitated offenders, giving them no opportunity to challenge their placement on the registry. Lawyers argued that the law  needs to have some mechanism for adjusting the extent of public notification to suit the offender’s level of dangerousness.

The court agreed saying the consequences for an offender being placed on the registry are too severe without an opportunity for the offender to prove they aren’t a threat.

The Supreme Court has opted to require Alaska Superior Court to do individualized risk-assessment hearings before requiring sex offenders to register.  The Superior Court will decide how to implement those hearings and will look at states with similar procedures for a model.

Chief Justice Craig Stowers and Justice Joel Bolger both argued the fact that sex offenders convictions are already public reduces their expectation of privacy. They also questioned how the court will measure the amount of risk needed to justify registration.

 

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