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Indiana Lifelong Violent Offender Registration Preliminary Injunction Upheld in Part

On December 29, 2008, an Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a superior court’s preliminary injunction against lifelong registration for violent offenders.

A July 1, 2007 Indiana statute added people who had been convicted of certain violent crimes to the state’s registry requirement, which previously was solely reserved for sex offenders. Ind. Code §§ 11-8-8-7 to 17 required persons convicted of murder, manslaughter, attempted murder and attempted manslaughter to register for ten years after their release from prison or placement on probation, parole or in a community transition program. Violent offenders who committed specified crimes were required to register for the rest of their lives.

Annual, in-person registration with local law enforcement was mandated for the locations where such persons lived, worked or attended school. The required registration information included full name, alias, date of birth, gender, race, height, weight, hair color, eye color, distinguishing features, social security number, driver’s license number, vehicle description, license plate number, address, description of offense and a recent photograph. Much of this information was published on the Internet (, and failure to register or make timely notification of a change of address was a felony.

Indiana residents James Gibson, Mark Lamar and John Doe were subject to the registration requirements for violent offenders. They filed a class action lawsuit in state superior court that challenged the legality of the statute under the state constitution. The court issued a preliminary injunction on some, but not all, of the issues raised in the suit, and both sides appealed.

The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling on the constitutional issues, holding that the registration requirements did not violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause, Article I, Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution, because the violent crimes were limited to those demonstrating intentional deadly behavior toward another person, which was not an arbitrary classification.

The appellate court also found that the registration requirements did not violate Article I, Section 12 of the Indiana Constitution, because “there is some (albeit slight) recidivism among violent offenders at least for some time after release” and “community notification about violent offenders provides an opportunity for enhancing public safety,” which is a legitimate state interest. Therefore, “the requirement that violent offenders register for at least some amount of time meets the low threshold requirement of rational relation” to a legitimate state interest.

The Court of Appeals noted that neither constitutional provision could justify a preliminary injunction. However, the language of the lifetime registration requirement was confusing and made no sense, in that it referred to both violent and sex offenders in some places but to only sex offenders in others, and the most logical reading was that most violent offenders should have been excluded from lifetime registration. This justified a preliminary injunction as to the lifelong registration requirement for violent offenders who had not been convicted of sex-related crimes or crimes against children.

The superior court’s preliminary injunction appeared to apply to all violent offenders. Therefore, the appellate court upheld the granting of the preliminary injunction, but reversed the injunction insofar that it could be construed to apply to sexually violent predators. See: Gibson v. Indiana Department of Corrections, 899 N.E.2d 40 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008).

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Related legal case

Gibson v. Indiana Department of Corrections