Rulings Affect Sex Offender Registry

May 4, 2009

journalgazette.net (Indiana) : Rulings affect sex offender state registry.

A pair of rulings by the Indiana Supreme Court might bring dramatic changes to who is listed on Indiana’s Sex and Violent Offender Registry.

One ruling deals with sex offenders who committed their crimes and were sentenced before the state’s sex offender registry laws existed. The other ruling, involving an Allen County case, deals with whether sex offenders’ listings on the registry are subject to further changes to the registry.

In the first ruling, the state’s highest court overturned Richard P. Wallace’s 2000 conviction for failing to register as a sex offender. Wallace was convicted of Class C felony child molesting in 1989, five years before Indiana passed its version of the Sex Offender Registration Act, known as Zachary’s Law. In 2001, the state legislature amended the law to include all people convicted of certain sex offenses regardless of their conviction date. And in 2003, Wallace’s ex-wife told authorities that Wallace never registered as a sex offender. Wallace was convicted, but he appealed, arguing in part that the changes to the registry violated the state’s Constitution by creating an “after the fact” punishment.

And the state’s high court agreed.

“Wallace was charged, convicted and served the sentence for his crime before the statutes collectively referred to as the Indiana Sex Offender Registration Act were enacted,” Justice Robert D. Rucker wrote.

The changes to the act violated the state’s Constitution by imposing burdens on Wallace that added punishment beyond what could have been imposed when his crime was committed, Rucker wrote.

In the second case, the court upheld a ruling by Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull involving Allen County resident Todd Jensen.

Gull had ruled that Jensen must register for life as a sexually violent predator even though the provision in the law that created that designation did not exist when he was convicted.

Jensen qualified as a “sexually violent predator” because of his conviction for vicarious sexual gratification, one of the crimes included under the designation by the state legislature in a 2006 change to the registry law.

He objected to the requirement and asked Gull to consider his case. She ruled he was a sexually violent predator and as such was subject to the changes in the registry. The 2006 changes contained no limitation on the date of conviction, according to court documents.

Jensen appealed, using in part arguments similar to the ones Wallace used, that the requirement created a punishment after the fact. In a split decision, the appellate court agreed and sent the case back to Gull to limit Jensen’s registration requirement to 10 years. But in a 3-2 decision, the state Supreme Court upheld Gull’s ruling that Jensen should have to register as a sexually violent predator for life.

For now, those tasked with monitoring the registry will wait to see what effect the rulings will have on how the registry is handled. But they are sure it will lead to some changes. “It’s going to create a lot of work in the next few weeks because we’ll have to go through each file and see what box these offenders are going to fit into,” said Allen County Cpl. Jeff Shimkus, who handles the registry for Allen County. He will wait to see how the Indiana Department of Correction interprets the ruling and wants to put it into practice. Shimkus also expects a meeting with the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office. The Indiana Department of Correction will comply with the changes, but officials there are still trying to figure out what it all means.

“We don’t know yet how many offenders this will affect,” said Doug Garrison, DOC spokesman. “If it means taking offenders off the registry, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: