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AK: Alaska Supreme Court overturns 2006 conviction

The Alaska Supreme Court last week overturned the conviction of a 62-year-old Ketchikan man who had been found guilty in 2006 of failure to register as a sex offender.

In its April 25th opinion, the court writes that the original offense for which ____ ____ was convicted occurred in the 1980s, before the State of Alaska passed the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act. That 1994 law required convicted sex offenders to register with the state, even if the offense took place before 1994. Full Article

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It is a good start at least the courts are catching up and saying that is is unjust.

It sounds like this court called registration a criminal statute, not a civil requirement. Very interesting. Did we miss something in 2008?


The court writes that “permitting Charles to be convicted of violating a criminal statute that cannot constitutionally be applied to him would result in manifest injustice.”

Umm “what criminal statute?”

No, Tim, I didn’t miss it. The Alaska high court did rule that – but it was based on the Alaska Constitution, not the federal Constitution, so it does not apply outside Alaska. It was largely centered on the Alaska Constitution’s significant protection of privacy, and thus a violation of that would be punishment, and punishment cannot be applied retroactively. You can see that 2008 Alaska opinion here: The California Constitution is not quite the same, but its privacy protection is decidedly stronger than that provided in the federal Constitution. But our high court has been VERY opposed to… Read more »

I don’t see how something can be considered punishment in one state and not in another. There has to be some congruency between the state and federal definitions, doesn’t there? If not, then all sorts of experiments like the registry, that take away people’s liberties will be deemed merely regulatory. Prison itself can be considered a freaking attempt to regulate someone’s life for the public safety.

Civil commitment?

Definitions and different standards of the state Constitution is how. Consider, how can an Alaska court make an interpretation of the Alaska constitution and that somehow applies in all states even though no other state follows the Alaska constitution? The Alaska constitution has very significant differences about privacy than does the federal constitution — and that is where the difference is in this opinion. The California constitution also has stronger privacy standards than the federal — so it is possible this line of opinion could apply here, but ONLY if our court says it does. But our court does not… Read more »

So you’re saying the violation of privacy is what constitutes punishment under Alaska law. I see your point. But if California privacy laws are stronger than Alaska’s I do hope that someone in California will use the Alaska argument, as a logical precedent. If our present judges don’t buy that, I pray they come to their senses as the evidence mounts that registration is nothing but a waste of public resources.
As for Mike’s comment, yeah, I would say civil commitment is prison under the cloak of regulation.

No, I said California’s constitutional protection of privacy is stronger than the federal Constitution, not the Alaska constitution. I’m not at all sure how California’s protection of privacy would rate against Alaska’s. Nonetheless, we are talking about interpretation. Just because the particular people on the Alaska court rule that way doesn’t mean the people on the California high court will think the same. In fact, our high court has gone to a lot of trouble, to the level of blatent lying, to say that our registration laws are not punishment. They have flat our ruled that red is blue in… Read more »

Tim, as another example, you might want to look at this thread from an Oklahoma case, and my post in that thread:

Again, the Oklahoma court says new, tougher standards (in this case, how long you must register) cannot be applied retroactively. Our California High Court last year ruled the opposite, in <i?Doe v. Harris, based on its interpretation of state law (which was very strained in order to find a way to come to a decision they wanted, no matter the reality).

Case Name: People v. Marinelli , District: 6 DCA , Case #: H039416 Opinion Date: 3/27/2014 , DAR #: 3920 Case Holding: A defendant convicted of attempted lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 years (Pen. Code,§§ 664, 288, subd.(a)) is eligible for relief under Penal Code section 1203.4, subdivision (a). In 2008, appellant pled no contest to attempted lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 years (Pen. Code,§§ 664, 288, subd.(a)) and was granted formal probation. After successfully completing probation, he filed for relief under section 1203.4, subdivision (a), which was granted. The prosecution then… Read more »

Huh? This is all fine and dandy — but it has nothing to do with this thread.

The introductory sentence is missing from that case summary probably because I missed it when copying it. But the summary is from CCAP resources, which is the California Appellate site.

So, basically, the court is not just inferring but ruling that the registry itself is a punishment, not a regulatory device as posited by Smith v. Doe. The state attorney was extremely negligent in not bringing out that fact, as now this decision can actually be used in the re-challenge to the registry.

I do not pretend to completely understand this ruling but I thought that the registration requirement is non-punitive and civil, and as such retroactive without being ex post facto. However, violating said requirement is criminal offense, in the present tense.

That is the beauty of this. Legal minds of future generations will (hopefully) marvel at how they got away with this.

See my post above — it explains. Bottom line: It is based on the Alaska Constitution so does not apply outside Alaska.

Can we go to the federal court and say “remove the megan’s law it is a punishment?


Alaska is consistent finding the retroactive registration violates Ex Post Facto. Appellate courts had it right in Smith v. Doe, it was the US Supremes that got it wrong in 2003. No doubt this failed legal theory cannot stand the test of time from constant challenges of so many new cases. Significant US cases finding Retroactive Registration Violates Ex Post Facto since Smith v. Doe (U.S. Supreme Court, March 2003): 1. Doe v. State, 189 P.3d 999 (Alaska, July 2008) 2. Wallace v. State, 905 N.E.2d 371 (Indiana, April 2009) 3. State v. Letalien, 985 A.2d 4 (Maine, December 2009)… Read more »

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