IN: Out-of-state sex offender registration requirement does not violate Indiana Constitution

Source: 5/16/22

The Court of Appeals of Indiana has upheld a finding that the retroactive application of the state’s sex offender registration requirements does not violate the Indiana Constitution’s ex post facto clause.

Tracey Williams Crowley petitioned the St. Joseph Circuit Court in 2021 to have his name removed from the Indiana Sex and Violent Offender Registry. He had been convicted in Michigan of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony, in 1988.

In 2004, Crowley moved to Indiana. As he was required to do in Michigan, he registered as a sex offender in Indiana.

However, Crowley asserted Indiana’s sex offender registration law, Indiana Code Chapter 11-8-8, was crafted after he was convicted, and the amendment mandating sex offenders from other states register in Indiana was not enacted until 2006, two years after he had settled in the Hoosier State. Consequently, Crowley argued the registration requirement constituted an ex post facto punishment.

But the trial court denied Crowley’s petition for removal from the registry, finding the lifetime registration “serves a regulatory purpose and is non-punitive.”

In Tracey William Crowley v. State of Indiana, 21A-MI-2064, the Court of Appeals agreed and cited precedent from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Crowley, before the appellate panel, reiterated his argument that applying the 2006-2007 amendments to Indiana’s sex offender registration law to him was unconstitutional. The amendments that required newly arrived out-of-state residents to register upon arrival in Indiana were not in place when he moved to the Hoosier State, so he had “no warning that … he would be required to register,” and his lifetime registration requirement constituted a “quintessential ex post facto punishment.”

The Court of Appeals found that while the Indiana Supreme Court has not addressed the precise scenario presented by Crowley, the 7th Circuit did in Hope v. Comm’r of Ind. Dep’t of Correction, 984 F.3d 532 (7th Cir. 2021), reh’g en banc granted, opinion vacated (Hope I), and Hope v. Comm’r of Ind. Dep’t of Correction, 9 F.4th 513 (7th Cir. 2021) (Hope II).

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So, one court says it’s punitive and this one says it’s not. Another example of the system citing cases based on illegal rulings. I don’t believe it matters whether or not the requirement to register is punitive or not. It was a law passed “after the fact.” This law should not apply to this man. Am I wrong in my thinking?