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Ohio Supreme Court Fight on Sex Offender Laws

November 5, 2009

DispatchPolitics.com (Columbus) : Lawyers fight law on sex offenders before Ohio Supreme Court.

Thousands of registered sex offenders would be subject to less-stringent reporting requirements if defense lawyers succeed in challenging parts of a 2007 state law intended to crack down on sexual criminals.
The attorneys told the Ohio Supreme Court yesterday that the get-tough law was applied illegally to more than 26,000 sex offenders who were sentenced before it took effect.

In addition, the lawyers said, the measure penalizes people who commit sex offenses before they turn 18 by requiring them to continue to register as sex offenders well into adulthood.

The state’s highest court heard four cases yesterday challenging Senate Bill 10, which created a new system for classifying sex offenders based more on the severity of the crime than the likelihood of committing future offenses.

More than half of the offenders were placed in the most-serious category — sexual predators — who are required to register every 90 days for life.

Jeffrey M. Gamso, a Toledo lawyer who argued one of the cases, said the law had more to do with securing federal funding under the Adam Walsh Act than protecting Ohioans.

“Is the sheriff really keeping tabs on all those people?” Gamso asked in an interview. “We know that some people will re-offend, and we want to be able to target those people. “You want to find the needle in the haystack, and what this does is build a bigger haystack.”

State Sen. Timothy J. Grendell, R-Chesterland, said “The timing was based on us being told we’d get an additional 10 percent (in Adam Walsh funding) if we did this by a certain time. We would not make public policy just to get money.”

The two adult cases:

• Three adult sex offenders from Huron County who were classified as sexual predators under the 2007 law say it’s unconstitutional to subject them to a “punitive” law that didn’t exist when they were sentenced.
Gamso, who represented the men, said lawmakers can’t step in and redo classifications for sex offenders that already were determined by judges.

• Roman Chojnacki, who was convicted of sex with a minor in Warren County in 2006, was reclassified from a low-risk sex offender under the old law to a medium-risk offender. His attorney, Jason A. Macke, argued that Chojnacki and others who were reclassified should have had access to lawyers during that process.

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