The Supreme Court of South Carolina issued a decision today that declared unconstitutional lifetime registration in that state because the state does not provide registrants “any opportunity for judicial review to assess the risk of re-offending.” Specifically, the Court ruled that lifetime registration violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.
“Because of this decision, registrants in South Carolina will no longer be required to register for life unless and until a court assesses their risk of re-offending,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “This is a big step in the right direction, however, it remains to be seen if registrants’ rights will be protected during those court assessments.”
In its decision, the Court determined that South Carolina’s current lifetime registration requirement is not “rationally related to the legislature’s stated purpose of protecting the public from those with a high risk of re-offending.” The Court then explained that “the lifetime inclusion of individuals who have a low risk of re-offending renders the registry over-inclusive and dilutes its utility by creating an ever-growing list of registrants that is less effective at protecting the public and meeting the needs of law enforcement.”
The Court noted in its decision that “there is no evidence in the record that current statistics indicate all sex offenders pose a high risk of re-offending.” The Court also noted that “recent empirical studies cast significant doubt on the pronouncement…that sex offenders’ risk of recidivism is ‘frightening and high.'” One of those studies, “Frightening and High,” was written by ACSOL board member Ira Ellman.
In its decision, the Court also ruled that the state government of South Carolina may lawfully publish personal information about a registrant on the internet, including but not limited to, the state’s Megan’s Law website.
Download a PDF of the decision: