Sunday, June 24, 2012

Registration is not Punishment for a Crime

Most jurisdictions do not require a finding of new criminal conduct or that the targeted individual poses a current threat to public safety as a predicate to imposing the "duty" of registration. They instead rely solely upon the mere existence of a prior judgment of criminal conviction and the archaic presumption that said judgment was adjudicated in accordance with due process of law.

When presented with ex post facto challenges to ex-felon registration laws, the Supreme Court agreed with supporters that such laws were intended to be non-penal civil regulations and, therefore, did not impose additional punishment for a prior offense. See, Smith v. Doe, 538 US 84 (2003). After being assured that offenders are not required to appear and register in person, the Court focused on the stigmatizing effect of publishing registrants' data on a sex offender website, which it found acceptable because their criminal records were already publicly available at the local court house.