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South Carolina Sex Offender’s Lifetime Satellite Monitoring Held Unconstitutional

The South Caroline Supreme Court held on May 9, 2012 that court-ordered lifetime satellite monitoring violated a sex offender’s due process rights.

Jennifer Rayanne Dykes, 26, was convicted of a sex offense for having an eight-month relationship with a 14-year-old girl. The court imposed a suspended 15-year prison term, contingent upon serving three years in prison and completion of a five-year term of probation. While incarcerated Dykes was found not to be a sexually violent predator, but she violated her probation shortly after she was released.

At her revocation hearing, the state recommended partial revocation of her probation and mandatory lifetime satellite monitoring pursuant to Sec. 23-3-540(C), South Carolina Code (Supp.2010). Dykes was required to pay the monitoring costs and was not allowed to travel out-of-state without approval. Overnight travel was permitted only for emergencies. “For Dykes, this restriction on her right to travel freely in this country would ... extend throughout her life, without any possibility of petitioning the court for relief.”

Dykes argued that mandatory lifetime monitoring was unconstitutional, and “presented expert testimony that she personally poses a low risk of reoffending and that one’s risk of reoffending cannot be determined solely by the offense committed.”

Finding that Dykes had violated her probation, the circuit court revoked her probation for two years but ordered that her probation be terminated following her release from prison.
The court also denied her constitutional challenges and “found it was statutorily mandated to impose satellite monitoring” without making any findings as to Dykes’ risk of recidivism.

On appeal, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that lifetime satellite monitoring violated Dykes’ substantive due process rights. “Applying the rational basis test,” the Court found that “the mandated lifetime satellite monitoring and absence of any judicial review related to an assessment of an individual’s likelihood of re-offending renders the challenged provision arbitrary.” Additionally, “in light of the legislature’s predication of the statutory scheme on the substantial purpose of protecting the public from sex offenders who may re-offend,” the Court found “the lack of risk assessment ... not rationally related to such purpose, and thus unconstitutional.”

The Court concluded, “We therefore hold that requiring Dykes, a convicted sex offender who is under no probationary or similar restrictions, to submit to satellite monitoring for the rest of her life if she poses a low risk of reoffending violates her substantive due process rights” (emphasis in original).

The South Carolina Supreme Court granted a petition for rehearing in the case on July 12, 2012, but has not yet is-sued a ruling on rehearing. See: State v. Dykes, 398 S.C. 351, 728 S.E.2d 455 (S.C. 2012), rehearing granted.

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Related legal case

State v. Dykes