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Lifetime GPS Monitoring of Sex Offenders Upheld in South Carolina

Lifetime GPS Monitoring of Sex Offenders Upheld in South Carolina

by Lonnie Burton

South Carolina’s Supreme Court hasrejected a challenge to a state law that requires lifetime GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders who violate the terms of their probation, parole or community supervision. The statute, known as “Jessie’s Law,” was passed in 2005 but applies to all sex offenders regardless of the date of their offense.

Anthony Nation was convicted in 2000 of committing a lewd act on a child under the age of sixteen and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Following his release in 2009, Nation accrued several probation violations; as a result, he was ordered by the circuit court to comply with lifetime GPS monitoring in accordance with Jessie’s Law, S.C. Code Ann. § 23-3-540.

Nation appealed, arguing that GPS monitoring cannot be imposed on a sex offender who was convicted prior to the statute’s effective date. Among other things, Nation challenged the law on ex post facto, equal protection, due process and double jeopardy grounds.

In a July 2, 2014 decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court dismissed each of Nation’s claims, holding that he raised no “new questions of law.” Further, citing to decisions in other recent cases, including State v. Dykes, 403 S.C. 499, 744 S.E.2d 505 (S.C. 2013), the Court wrote that it had “explicitly rejected each of [Nation’s] challenges in [those] opinions.”

Finding that GPS monitoring is a “civil requirement” and “not a punishment,” the state Supreme Court held that such a civil issue, by definition, cannot implicate ex post facto, double jeopardy or equal protection concerns.

With respect to Nation’s due process claim, the Court noted that it had already struck the one portion of Jessie’s Law that permanently foreclosed judicial review of the continued need for GPS monitoring of a particular defendant. A person subject to GPS monitoring may petition the court for relief after ten years, and then every five years after that.

The Supreme Court’s decision was not unanimous. Two of the five justices dissented, stating they would find the GPS monitoring unconstitutional because the law requires no individualized determination of a defendant’s likelihood of reoffending – a violation of the right to substantive due process. See: State v. Nation, 408 S.C. 474, 759 S.E.2d 428 (S.C. 2014), cert. denied.


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Related legal cases

State v. Nation

State v. Dykes