Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ohio Court Rules AWA Unconstitutional

sexcrimes.blogspot.com: Ohio Court Rules AWA Unconstitutional.

May 12, 2008
Court Rules Ohio's AWA Compliance Statute Unconstitutional

In Evans v. Ohio, a court in Cuyahoga County ruled that the state's AWA compliance statute is unconstitutional because it violates the Ohio Constitution's prohibition against retroactive punishments and violates the ex post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution. While there has been some recent pushback against the AWA at the federal level, this is a notable successful challenge at the state level. Here is a key portion of the opinion (which thanks to a couple helpful readers you can download here):


The Act is punitive because it is not tailored to a non-punitive purpose. The Adam Walsh Act fails to consider an offender's likelihood to re-offend. The expanded notification provisions ostracize offenders. The residency restrictions are arbitrary. The Act is not tailored because it imposes new restrictions and obligations without any regard for the offender's potential for future harm.

Cleveland.com: Cuyahoga County Judge Ronald Suster rules new Ohio sex offender law unconstitutional:

A new state law toughening registration requirements for convicted sex offenders is unconstitutional, a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge ruled last week.

Judge Ronald Suster blocked the state from enforcing the law on one sex offender convicted of sexual battery in 2003.

In his court order, Suster ruled that the new requirements are unlawful because they increase punishment without a court hearing and are retroactively applied to sex offenders whose crimes were committed before the law passed in 2007. Suster's decision reinforces the arguments presented in a federal class-action lawsuit filed in January by the Cuyahoga County Public Defender's Office on behalf of sex offender registrants statewide convicted before the new law was enacted.

Suster was unavailable for comment Friday. But in his ruling, the judge contended that the law's intention is "to punish and ostracize this unpopular group," rather than enhance public safety. The law "goes beyond mere 'official archives of criminal records' into a system that effectively ostracizes offenders and subjects the offenders to harassment and ridicule as well as potential abuse," Suster wrote.

The law took effect in January to comply with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, a set of federal laws mandating that all states uniformly register sex offenders and place them into a national registry by 2009. It was billed as a way to prevent sex offenders from slipping through the cracks and committing other sex crimes.

In Ohio, the law reclassified sex offenders into three tiers - increasing the number of offenders who must register every 90 days for life by nearly 60 percent.

Suster issued an injunction to prevent the state from enforcing the law on Tramaine Evans, 30, who was convicted of sexual battery in 2003 and served a year in prison for his crime.

Evans was instructed to register as a sexually oriented offender annually for 10 years. But in November, he received notice that under the new state law, he had been reclassified as a Tier III sex offender and must register every 90 days, as well as notify neighbors of his criminal record and abide by residency restrictions for the rest of his life.

His challenge to the state law was one of nearly 1,000 filed this year in Cuyahoga County, said John Martin, appellate supervisor for the Cuyahoga County Public Defender's Office.

The state has 30 days to appeal Suster's decision in the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals.