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Louisiana Supreme Court Rejects Ex Post Facto Challenge in Sex Offender Supervision Case

The Louisiana Supreme Court has reversed the judgment of a state appellate court and reinstated the "lifelong supervision" of Rudy Trosclair, who had contested that condition on ex post facto grounds. At the time of Trosclair's conviction, La. Rev. Stat. Section 15:561.2 required any person convicted of a sex offense involving a victim under thirteen years of age to be placed on community supervision for five years following their release from custody. By the time that Trosclair was released in November 2010, the statute had been amended by 2008 La. Acts 672 to require lifelong supervision for such offenders.

Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits Congress from passing any ex post facto law, such that "the legal definition of the offense or ... the nature or amount of the punishment imposed for its commission, should not be altered by legislative enactment, after the fact, to the disadvantage of the accused." Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U.S. 167, 169-170, 46 S.Ct. 68, 68-69 (1925).

The case turned on the issue of whether the lifelong supervision provision of the amended statute constituted "punishment." The Louisiana Supreme Court considered the seven factors set forth in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 168-169, 83 S. Ct. 554 (1963), including "whether [it] ... has been regarded in our history and traditions as a punishment; imposes an affirmative disability or restraint; promotes the traditional aims of punishment; has a rational connection to a nonpunitive purpose; or is excessive with respect to this purpose."

In reviewing the facts, the Supreme Court found that the state appellate court had "placed disproportionate value under the Mendoza-Martinez framework on the punitive aspects of supervision, which is traditionally considered to be a lenient form of punishment, and insufficient value on the rational link between the [statute] at issue and the legislature's stated goal of protecting the public from the high risk of recidivism."

The Court concluded in its May 8, 2012 decision that "we find the provisions at issue here are predominantly nonpunitive in both intent and effect, and their retroactive application to this defendant does not violate the Ex Post Facto Clauses of either the United States or Louisiana Constitutions." Hence, Trosclair was required to be placed on lifelong community supervision. See: State of Louisiana v. Trosclair, 89 So.3d 340 (La. 2012).

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Related legal case

State of Louisiana v. Trosclair