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OK: Sex Offender Law Successful Challenge Sets Stage for Other Jurisdictions

Recent decisions have relied on the reasoning of the US Supreme Court in Smith v. Doe when analyzing challenges to sex offender registry laws. The Smith decision notoriously held that Alaska’s sex offender registry did not violate the US Constitution’s prohibition on ex post facto laws. The US Supreme Court held that the Alaska registry was constitutional by applying a two-step analysis: first, determining whether the legislation was intended to have a punitive effect and if so, analyzing the results of the “intents-effects” test established by the court in Kentucky vs. Mendoza-Martinez.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court wisely broke from Smith when it decided Starkey v. Department of Corrections on June 25, 2013. Although the Starkey decision relied on the same framework established in Smith, the Oklahoma Supreme Court acknowledged that the challenged state sex offender statutes were not at all the same as the Alaska registration scheme examined by the US Supreme Court in Smith. Full Article

Join the discussion

  1. Janice Bellucci

    This is a great article! It lays out a roadmap to how we can successfully challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 2003 case Smith v. Doe. It is that case which has allowed a pendulum of punishment to swing in our country, denying the civil rights of all registered citizens as well as many of their loved ones. As the Oklahoma court acknowledged, the “sex offender” laws passed in the last 10 years are punishment and therefore cannot and should not be applied retroactively!

  2. Rocky Graciano

    Nice. : )

  3. KathieG.

    God bless the Oklahoma Supreme Court!

  4. Bluewall

    I am so not understanding this… Can someone explain the Supreme Court to me in laymen terms.. For example if Supreme Court of Florida disbands SO laws, does that apply to the whole country? Or do other Supreme Courts from all parts of the country have to think about it?

  5. Tim

    I have read the Smith vs. Doe opinions and this article. None of the opinions mention that a registrant can not even look at his own information on the Web. You’ve got to pay a lawyer or ask someone else to look and hopefully tell you the truth. It’s not really a public registry if part of the public can’t view it.

  6. Tim

    I am a layman with a capital L. I am still trying to understand this stuff. Anyway, Lawyers probably have to be very careful about giving opinions in a public forum. I see it like this: The Supreme Court majority did not outright say what would “tip the balance” and make registration laws unconstitutional. They said Alaska’s retroactive application of the law at the time wasn’t. Oklahoma’s Supreme court has shown a couple of significant cases where the balance was tipped, and people were being punished twice for the same crime, in violation of the State’s Constitution. Other states don’t have to automatically follow Oklahoma, but if laws are challenged in other states, the challengers can use the strong Oklahoma arguments. They have weight now and can’t be ignored. I don’t think the United State Supreme Court can declare all registration laws unconstitutional in one fell swoop, but when another case makes it there, the Supreme Court will have a vastly more difficult time of justifying its earlier decision, that registration laws are simply public disclosure and not punishment. A lot of things have changed since 2003, and Alaska’s law at that time looks like a parking ticket violation, compared to what passes for law now.

  7. anonymous

    Unfortunately the court hearing the California appellate case Doe v. Harris regarding the retroactive application of 290 law changes for registrants who had accepted plea deals in California counties did not share the same view as Oklahoma. Now with the US limiting international travel for registrants with passports, we are moving further and further away from justice.

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