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Utah Sex Offender Registration Injunction Vacated

On August 20, 2009, a Utah federal court lifted the injunction it had previously issued against the Utah sex offender registry requiring registered sex offenders to register their internet names and passwords.

John Doe is the pseudonym for a man who was convicted of sexual offenses in a U.S. military court and subsequently required to register in Utah as a sex offender. Doe filed a civil rights suit in federal district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the registry statute, Utah Code Ann. § 77-27-21.5(14)(j) & (j), and Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA), Utah Code Ann. § 63G-2-302, requiring him to place his internet identifiers and passwords along with the websites they are used on violated his right to free speech and violated the Ex Post Facto Clause and the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Issuing an injunction against enforcement of the provisions, the district court held that the provision violated Doe's free speech rights because it allowed the government to track even core protected speech, such as political speech, without any restriction that its use be limited to investigation of criminal offenses.

Utah subsequently amended the statutes to eliminate the requirement that passwords be disclosed and limit use of the other information to the investigation of sex-related crimes or disclosures permitted by GRAMA. Internet identifiers were also eliminated from the information to be disclosed on the sex offender registry website. GRAMA now designates as "private" all information not required to be disclosed on the website. Defendants subsequently filed a motion to dismiss pursuant the suit.

The district court held that the portion of the injunction that exempted sex offenders from providing their passwords was rendered moot by the amendments. Furthermore, the requirement of providing internet identifiers, limited to the investigation of sex crimes, did not violate Doe's free speech rights because it did not burden core political speech. The amended statutes also did not violate the Fourth Amendment, because Doe had no reasonable expectation of privacy in internet identifiers he presumably provided to his IP service provider. The statutes also did not violate Ex Post Facto Clause as they were not punitive in nature. Therefore, the injunction was vacated.

See: Doe v. Shurtleff, U.S.D.C.-D.Utah, Case No. 1:08-CV-64-TC.

Additional source: Salt Lake Tribune

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Related legal case

Doe v. Shurtleff