Idaho's sex offender registry is constitutionally challenged; potential impact for Florida's?

Sex crimes evoke some of the deepest and strongest feelings from people about how offenders should be punished, and understandably so. But guilt or innocence aside, and forgetting for a moment that offenders often face decades in prison, there is one aspect of sex crimes sentencing that often gets overlooked: the post-incarceration registration process, which is a modern day scarlet letter that is more burdensome than you can imagine.

According to the Idaho Statesman, the sex offender registry laws of Idaho are facing a constitutional challenge. A new federal lawsuit filed by 104 sex offenders alleges that the offenders were accused of committing crimes that were not felonies, aggravated offenses, or did not call for registration at pertinent times. Now, 20 years later, these offenders are nevertheless being compelled to register as sex offenders in Idaho for the rest of their lives, which has a debilitating impact and suffocates any potential to get their life back on track.

The lawsuit alleges that such retroactive punishment is unconstitutional. The lawsuit claims that the Idaho law is in violation of several provisions of the constitutions of both the United States and Idaho, including, but not limited to, the ex post facto clause, the double jeopardy clause, the rights of the offenders to due process, equal protection and more.

Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that the law restricts the offenders’ capacity to raise their children, find housing and employment, travel, participate in activities relevant to free speech (Internet use), and be protected from harassment and stigma.

The offenders/plaintiffs bringing the suit are not named; instead, they are referred to as Does 1-104. The lawsuit also identifies more than 35 defendants, including the sheriffs of the 21 counties in which the plaintiffs reside. The suit does not seek monetary damages, but rather, seeks to proclaim those sections of the law unconstitutional and have injunctive relief so as to prevent those laws them from being enforced.

The outcome of the lawsuit will be watched closely by criminal defense attorneys across the nation. Obviously each and every state has its own laws and Florida’s are not identical to Idaho’s. However, a careful analysis of any judicial rulings in the case might spark debate right here in Florida.

If you think you have been wrongly accused of a crime, contact Fischer Redavid PLLC.

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