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Registration Requirements Expanded to Non-Sex Crimes and Unconvicted Offenses

by Matthew T. Clarke

Ohio and Illinois have recently expanded the scope of persons required to register with the state as sex offenders to include persons who have never been charged with or convicted of a sex crime.

In Ohio, the law was intended to register persons suspected of having committed a sex crime for which the statute of limitations has expired in the Ohio Attorney General?s Internet Civil Registry. To do this, the person requesting the registration requirement must only convince a judge that it is more likely than not that the crime occurred. The judge considers testimony and other evidence from both sides. No other state is considering such a registry.

The test case for the Ohio registry will likely be that of David Kelley, a Catholic priest from Mount Airy, Ohio, who is currently on administrative leave from the archdiocese of Cincinnati. Kelley is suspected of sexually abusing an elementary school student at the church?s school in the 1990s.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) lobbied for a bill to retroactively extend the two-year statute of limitations and allow hundreds of people who as children were abused by priests to file lawsuits or criminal charges. The Civil Registry law was a substitute which, according to its creator, state Rep. Bill Seitz, accomplishes the same goal. However, SNAP is dissatisfied, claiming that it won?t deter abuse and the ACLU questions the constitutionality of punishing people without first giving them a criminal trial.

Illinois has gone a step further, requiring people who have never even been accused of a sex crime to register as sex offenders. This occurred when the Illinois legislature added nonsexual crimes to the list of qualifying sex offenses in the 1990s. Thus, anyone over 16 who murders someone younger than 18 and anyone who kidnaps or unlawfully restrains someone younger than 18 who is not the victim?s parent must register as a sex offender.

Legislators added the nonsexual crimes because they believed in a connection between them and pedophilic crimes. However, according to Jorge Montes, chairman of the Illinois parole board, they are now being used to register gangbangers who killed other kids as if they had sex-related offenses, a fact he brought to the attention of the legislators.

?We?re not trying to be soft on murderers,? said Montes. ?One crime is just as bad as another, or worse. But the fact of the matter is everything has to be put in context.?

And the context is that Illinois wants to be very tough on sex offenders, not necessarily murderers. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, recently signed a law allowing for lifetime supervision of some sex offenders.

State Sen. Miguel del Valle, D-Chicago agrees.

?Yes, the person was convicted and did serve time for their crime,? said del Valle. ?They then get out and they continue to pay a price for a crime that they didn?t commit.?

The flaw in this argument is that the courts which have upheld sex offender registration laws, including the Supreme Court, did so by holding that they are not punishment. If they are not punishment for sex offenders, they can hardly be punishment for murderers. Perhaps it is time to reassess the legal fiction that says being publicly branded for life is not punishment. Until then, it is unlikely that even unjust registration laws will be reversed.

Sources: The Register Star; USA Today.

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