Alaska Supreme Court Rules Sex Offender Register Law is 'Unconstitutional'
Court determines Sexual Offender Registration Act violates due process rules
The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that part of the state’s Sexual Offender Registration Act violates due process regulations, ruling that it is "unconstitutional."
Judges ruled 3-2 that the public sex offender register is “both too broad and arbitrary” after hearing a case brought by a man who was convicted of a sex crime in Virginia and later moved to Alaska.
The man, referred to in the lawsuit as John Doe, argues that Alaska couldn’t impose penalties on an offender due to an offense from out of state and that the Alaska Sexual Offender Registration Act is in violation of the due process clause in the Alaska Constitution.
The court said offenders must be offered the chance to prove he or she is rehabilitated no longer a threat to the public.
“Our decision requiring an individualized risk-assessment hearing is based on the judicial power,” the court wrote in its opinion.
If an offender "can show at a hearing that he does not pose a risk requiring registration, then there is no compelling reason requiring him to register, and the fact that ASORA does not provide for such a hearing means that the statute is unnecessarily broad.”
According to Fox News, the court, however, upheld a lower court ruling mandating the registration of sex offenders upon moving to Alaska if they were required to register in another state as well.
The Alaska Sex Offender Registry Act requires sex offenders to register with law enforcement 30 days before being released from jail or prison or within a day of a conviction where the sentence doesn't include jail time.
The ruling stems from a 2016 case involving the unnamed "John Doe" convicted in 2000 of sexual battery in Virginia.
He was sentenced to five years in prison -- the time was suspended -- and five years' probation and was required to register as a sex offender.
Upon moving to Alaska, he registered as a sex offender annually for several years and then stopped.
He sued the state, claiming the sex offender registry law violated his rights to due process.
According to KTUU, instead of invalidating the rule, the Supreme Court Justices elected instead to allow the offender to file an action in court in which he will try to prove that he’s no longer a risk to the public, and should not be required to continually register.
These hearings are neither specifically required by the law, nor prohibited.
It was a close decision with three justices making the ruling, and Chief Justice Joel Bolger and Justice Craig Stowers disagreeing, saying the decision “leaves open a serious policy question: What quality of risk to the public is sufficient to justify registration?” the justices wrote in their dissenting opinion.
“How does a small risk of a heinous offense compare to a moderate risk of a lesser offense?
"How does registration affect the likelihood of recidivism?
"What kinds of evidence are persuasive to resolve these questions?”