ANCHORAGE -- The Alaska law requiring detailed personal information on sex offenders to be collected and distributed cannot be applied to people who committed their crimes before the law was passed, the Alaska Supreme Court justices ruled.
The decision Friday was brought in the case of a man convicted in 1985 and listed under the pseudonym "John Doe" in the lawsuit.
The Legislature in 1994 passed the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act.
Justices said detailed personal information about sex offenders required by the law and posted on the Internet cannot be applied to "Doe" or others convicted and sentenced before the law was enacted.
That would violate the ex post facto clause of the Alaska Constitution, justices said. An ex post facto law is a one passed after the commission of an act and which retrospectively changes the legal consequences.
The decision reverses a Superior Court ruling in favor of the state. It was written by Justice Robert L. Eastaugh. Chief Justice Dana Fabe dissented.
Attorneys for "Doe" contend the law substantially altered the consequences attached to his completed crime and that the Alaska Constitution afforded him more protection than the federal version.
State attorneys said the measure was a regulatory law intended to help protect the public, not a penal law aimed at the offender and was not intended to punish convicted individuals for past acts.
Justices disagreed, concluding the law's effect was punitive. It places a severe stigma on all to whom it applies. Offenders face intrusive duties under threat of prosecution and are subject to profound humiliation and community-wide ostracism, the decision said.
State attorneys argued that negative effects on employment and housing opportunities would exist even without the registry and result not from dissemination of information but from the conviction itself. State attorneys said there was no evidence that Alaskans have directed any wrath at convicted sex offenders and that the sex offender registry Web site warns not to commit crimes using information from the site.
Justices did not find those arguments persuasive.
Recent Supreme Court decisions: http://www.state.ak.us/courts/sp.htm