Alaska Supreme Court Rules State Law Requiring Registry of Sex Offenders Unconstitutional

Gavel

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On June 14, 2019, the Supreme Court of the State of Alaska ruled in the case of John Doe v. State of Alaska, Department of Public Safety that a state law requiring the registry of all sex offenders was unconstitutional because it violates rights to due process for the offenders and that offenders must be given the chance to prove they are rehabilitated and no longer remain a threat to the public.

The Alaska Sex Offender Registry Act (ASORA) requires convicted sex offenders to put their personal information into a state database. The court concluded that while ASORA’s registration requirements could constitutionally be applied to out-of-state offenders, ASORA also violates due process, a defect may be cured by providing a procedure for offenders to establish their “non-dangerousness.”

According to the ruling, John Doe was convicted of aggravated sexual battery in Virginia in 2000. He was sentenced to five years of imprisonment (with all time suspended) and a five-year term of probation. He also was required to register as a sex offender under Virginia law. Doe moved to Alaska in January 2003 and he registered as a sex offender that same month. He registered again in January of 2004 and 2005.

In February of 2005, the Alaska Department of Public Safety (DPS) wrote to Doe stating that he was required to register quarterly for life. Doe did not comply with the new requirement and has not registered since January of 2005. In 2007, Doe was convicted of second-degree failure to register as a sex offender. He filed a lawsuit against the DPS – which upholds the ASORA – in 2016 and lost.

The appeal presented two questions to the court: 1) Whether ASORA’s registration requirements may be imposed on sex offenders who have moved to the state of Alaska after committing sex offenses elsewhere, and; 2) Whether ASORA violates due process by requirements all sex offenders to register without providing a procedure for them to establish that they do not present 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.”

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global provider of background checks – offers the most complete source of sex offender registry searches available in the United States that is critical to organizations serving vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and people with special needs. To learn more, visit www.esrcheck.com/Background-Checks/Sex-Offender-Registry-Searches/.

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