Silly sex offender registration laws have long been a bone that I’ve been itching to pick. If you asked me to list the ten worst decisions by SCOTUS in the last decade, Smith v. Doe and Dept’ of Public Safety v. Doe would make the top 5 of that list.
But I’ve always had the nagging feeling that both those decisions didn’t preclude future challenges to sex offender registration laws and their retroactive applications as violations of the Ex Post Facto clause. Now, we may just find out, because Maine’s Supreme Court has held that its sex offender registration law (SORNA) does violate the EPF.
The Maine decision is State v. Letalien, in which the defendant challenged the change in registration requirements from 15 years to lifetime and from change in address notifications to proactive 90 day reporting requirements. Interestingly, the ME court finds that the Federal and Maine Constitutions provide the same EPF protections and so the EPF violation is of the Federal Constitution.
Just like SCOTUS in Smith, the Letalien court concludes that SORNA is civil in nature and then engages in a discussion of the seven Mendoza-Martinez factors to determine if a statute that is intended to be civil will be found to be an ex post facto law. It will be so only if the “party challenging the statute provides ‘the clearest proof’ that ‘the statutory scheme [is] so punitive either in purpose or effect as to negate [the State’s] intention’ to deem it ‘civil.’” Kansas v. Hendricks. The factors are: Continue reading