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WI Supreme Court Upholds Sex Offender Registration for Non-sex crime

March 21, 2010

jsonline.com: Supreme Court upholds sex offender registration for non-sex crime.

State v. Smith (2008AP1011, March 19, 2010
Wisconsin’s sex offender registry statute, Wis. Stat. § 301.45

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court on Friday upheld the requirement that a man convicted of a crime with no sexual component still must register as a sex offender.

James W. Smith was convicted in Brown County in 2001 of false imprisonment of a minor for making the victim ride with him while he attempted to collect a drug debt from the victim’s friend. Both he and the victim were 17 at the time.

Under Wisconsin’s original 1993 statute, only those convicted of first- or second-degree sexual assault were required to register. In 1996, the law was expanded to require registration by those convicted of other crimes, including kidnapping or false imprisonment of a child.

After Smith failed to register as a sex offender, he was charged with that crime in 2005, convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. Smith appealed on the grounds that, as applied to him, the state’s registry law was irrational, arbitrary and unconstitutional. The state Appeals Court upheld the requirement and the Supreme Court granted review.

Writing for the majority, Justice Annette Ziegler found that the requirement, stated clearly in the statute, is rationally related to a legitimate government interest – protecting children and assisting law enforcement. Despite its name, the sex offender registry’s goal is not to identify those convicted of sexual crimes.

More than 41 other states require sex offender registration for those convicted of kidnapping or false imprisonment of a minor, even when there is no sexual element involved, according to the opinion.

Ziegler wrote that in many cases, people who kidnap children do have a sexual motivation.

In a dissent joined by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote that by failing to define the sex registry statute’s purpose clearly, the majority abdicated its obligation to provide meaningful review. Under the majority view, Bradley wrote, anyone convicted of just about any crime should register if the broad purpose of the sex offender registry is protect the public and assist law enforcement.

The dissent notes that Smith was originally charged with taking a hostage, party to the crime, conviction of which would not have required listing on the sex offender registry. He plea-bargained down to the false imprisonment charge, and Bradley says neither the sentencing judge nor the writer of the pre-sentence investigation contemplated that Smith would have to register as a sex offender.

The dissent found there was no rational basis for making Smith register as a sex offender.

This is all good. Here’s to diluting the registry to such an extent that it fails completely and is abolished.

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