Sex offender hysteria is well documented. Apparently, the Federal Government is also not immune from its mind altering effects. Consider the case of John Doe in Ohio. John Doe, convicted in 1993 of sexual battery in state court, is currently on Federal probation for unrelated drug offenses.
A zealous probation officer must’ve looked at Doe’s criminal record and noticed the sex offense conviction. So, the probation officer required Doe to register as a sex offender in Ohio. Only one problem: Ohio state law exempts Doe from registering.
And thus, the tug-of-war between the Federal Government and the State of Ohio begins. Whose requirements prevail? Or will it all be disregarded because the object of this “war” is to get a heinous, evil, dangerous, disgusting, despicable sex offender to register his whereabouts? Some counties in Ohio have had the testicular fortitude to tell the Feds to stick it, but unfortunately not the county in which Doe resides.
The Ohio Justice & Policy Center sued on the offender’s behalf after his probation officer ordered him to place his name on Ohio’s registry of sex offenders, even though the state exempts him from the database because he served his sentence before the registry law took effect in the late 1990s. The lawsuit says the registration requirement violates the offender’s rights and also is unconstitutional because it allows the federal government to trump a state law.
“There is no question he does not have to register under state law,” said Margie Slagle, an attorney with the Ohio Justice & Policy Center. “The feds think they can ignore Ohio’s wishes and make him register. It’s just bizarre.”
But a lawyer for Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis, who maintains the county’s registry, confirmed the county has been registering offenders at the request of federal probation officers.
“The bottom line is we have had guys showing up with an order from a probation officer saying, ‘I’m required to register,’” said Dave Stevenson, an assistant county prosecutor. “So we register them.”
And therein lies the Catch-22. If the State registers Doe, it is an illegal act in violation of the laws of the State of Ohio. If the State doesn’t register Doe, he’s in violation of his Federal probation. So who wins? The State or the Feds? Either way, there’s only one loser: the sex offender.
Update: An alert reader asks if Ohio is the only state that is facing this problem. Do any of you know whether other states have faced this issue? Any lawsuits pending? Any AWA expert? CRY, you out there?
H/T: 2L reader