Friday, May 21, 2010

Ohio vs. Richey: Ohio Supreme Court Challenge - Oral Arguments

State of Ohio v. Aaron K. Richey, Case no. 2009-1423
Ohio Supreme Court Oral Arguments
from 10th District Court of Appeals (Franklin County)

This is yet another new challenge of Ohio's Senate Bill 10 (Adam Walsh Act,Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) law which violates constitutional rights of offenders who committed offenses before the implementation of this law.

In this case, Richey pled no contest to sexual imposition, a third degree misdemeanor, back in 2006. Two years later, Richey found himself reclassified as a Tier I sex offender under the AWA, and asked that his plea be vacated.

This is a separate argument to the other constitutional challenges brought before the Ohio Supreme Court. It is based on the provision in the US Constitution which prohibits a state from enacting legislation which “impairs the obligations of a contract”: A plea bargain is a contract between the parties, and additional terms can’t be imposed after the contract is entered into. The Richey argument went a little further and argued that he could not have made a “knowing, intelligent, and voluntary” guilty plea if the legislature could subsequently amend the law to impose new and more dire consequences upon that plea.

Listen to audio of oral arguments which were held on May 12, 2010. Or download MP3 here.

Summary: Two years after he entered into a plea agreement, Richey was reclassified under Senate Bill 10 from the lowest Tier 3 into the highest risk Tier 1, and his mandatory registration was extended from a ten-year period to a lifetime registration requirement.

The Justices seem unable to understand that the simple requirement of lifetime registration is punitive in and of itself. Try to imagine yourself in this position. You entered into a plea agreement with the explanation and understanding that you would be required to register with law enforcement for a period of ten years. Years later, legislation is passed which re-classifies you from lowest risk tier (1) to the highest risk tier (3) and you are then given a mandate to register four times each year for the rest of your life. If you fail to do so even once, you face years of imprisonment.

This case argues that Richey was not informed of the potential of this drastic change in punishment associated with his plea agreement. Even if he were informed of this potential, increasing his punishment after the plea agreement is unconstitutional as Ex Post Facto (retroactive) laws are a violation of the U.S. Constitution.