Thursday, February 12, 2009

OH Sex Offender Challenges State Registry : Sex offender challenges state database.

Federal probation officers are demanding that sex offenders in Ohio register their names with a state database even if the state doesn’t require it.

A Cincinnati man challenged the practice in a federal lawsuit Wednesday, claiming it was unconstitutional and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The man, identified only as “John Doe” in the suit, was convicted of sexual battery in 1993 and completed his sentence for that crime in 1997.

The Ohio Justice & Policy Center sued on the offender’s behalf after his probation officer ordered him to place his name on Ohio’s registry of sex offenders, even though the state exempts him from the database because he served his sentence before the registry law took effect in the late 1990's.

The lawsuit says the registration requirement violates the offender’s rights and also is unconstitutional because it allows the federal government to trump a state law.

“There is no question he does not have to register under state law,” said Margie Slagle, an attorney with the Ohio Justice & Policy Center. “The feds think they can ignore Ohio’s wishes and make him register. It’s just bizarre.”

Federal officials declined comment Thursday. But a lawyer for Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis, who maintains the registry in Hamilton County, confirmed the county has been registering offenders at the request of federal probation officers. Stevenson said Hamilton County has opted to register those offenders even though some other Ohio counties have refused.

Slagle said few offenders – maybe a dozen or so – were required to register under orders from the probation officers. But she said the practice should end because it is illegal and costly, especially in a county struggling with budget cuts and layoffs. “The sheriff should not be wasting tax dollars chasing down offenders that the state of Ohio does not require them to chase,” Slagle said. “It’s a waste of money.”