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Ohio Legislature Cannot Increase Sex Offender Registration Requirements Imposed By Court

By Michael Brodheim

A divided Ohio Court of Appeals has held that changes to the state's Sex Offender Registration and Notification (SORN) Act, increasing its registration and notification requirements, violate the constitutional separation of powers doctrine to the extent that they attempt to modify existing final sentencing judgments.

In January 2001, Raymond Spangler, then 73, was convicted of exposing himself to and fondling neighborhood children several years earlier. He was sentenced to five years of community control, fined $350, and ordered to register for a period of ten years as a "sexually oriented" offender. In November 2007, he received notice that the Ohio Legislature had made changes to the SORN Act and that as a result of those changes, he had been reclassified as a "Tier II Sex Offender" who was required to register with the local sheriff's office every 180 days for 25 years. Ohio had made those changes in order to comply with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006; had it failed to do so, it would have risked losing 10 percent of the funding it would otherwise have received under the federal Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968.

In January 2008, Spangler filed a petition contesting his reclassification. In March 2008, the trial court denied Spangler's petition.

On appeal, Spangler argued that the application of the amended SORN Act to him violated the federal constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws, the state constitutional prohibition against retroactive laws, the double jeopardy clauses of the United states and Ohio Constitutions, stated and federal due process protections, the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers and the terms of his plea agreement.

The Court majority found merit to the last two claims, holding: "Since Spangler's classification as a sexually oriented offender with definite registration requirements constituted a final order of the lower court, Spangler cannot, under separation of powers and res judicata principles, now be reclassified under the provisions of the amended Act with differing registration requirements."

See: Spangler v. State, 2009-Ohio-3178.

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Related legal case

Spangler v. State