How can sex offender registries be constitutional?


There are two short answers:

(1) For the most part, the courts have found them to be constitutional because a) they weren’t created with the intent of inflicting punishment and b) they are not punitive enough in effect to override the government’s “legitimate interests.” I would argue substantively that both of these contentions are false. It wouldn’t require a monumental effort. Generally, though, the registries are considered “civil, regulatory” measures. Except that practically no “real” regulatory, civil requirement is so intrusive or stringent while carrying the threat of lengthy imprisonment for even the most innocuous failures to comply (and these threats are routinely followed through on).

(2) They’re not, from a moral and truly objective standpoint, but it’s the courts that have the authority on the matter, so that’s that. Remember: the Supreme Court upheld the notion that slaves were not people, but property at one point. They gave the go-ahead to school segregation with their notorious “separate but equal” doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson (1898).

Personally, I consider #2 to be a fair explanation for why the registration laws—particularly the most recent iterations of them, known variously as the Adam Walsh Act, SORA, SORNA, and so on—have been found constitutional. (To be clear, various jurisdictions have begun overturning pieces of these laws on ex post facto grounds as well as contract law principles in the case of plea agreements.)

It’s more complicated than this, of course. You have societal pressures broadly, you have judges who are elected in many jurisdictions and they’d rather stretch reason to its absolute limits before handing opponents a nice, fat, juicy focus of attack.

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It’s a 5 year old post, but still valid.

I like the part where the author states

In PA, for example, we had a mid-level appellate judge apply a massive seven-part test to multiple points of contention to determine whether the matters disputed were in fact punitive, despite the legislature’s Orwellian pronouncement in the legislation that its intent is not to punish.

While the court’s reasoning was lengthy (perhaps in order to give the appearance of soundness) and notwithstanding that same court’s pronouncement in other decisions that its conclusions were “well reasoned,” they were in fact so poorly reasoned as to shock the conscience of any thinking person. 

There’s an allegory of a frog in pot of water where the fire starts off slow and over time it slowly builds. The frog doesn’t notice the change in temperature because it is a gradual change to where the frog can accept the small increase in temperature of the water. Finally, the water is roiling with boiling bubbles and the frog realizes it too late to get out.

That “massive seven-part test” is a lengthy reasoning to give the appearance of soundness. Because the reasoning was so drawn out, the judge is able to make the public believe the registry isn’t unconstitutional. The public will accept the fact a 21-day notice for international travel doesn’t interfere with the right to travel unmolested if one is no longer under custody. The right to travel unmolested is a protected right, but the judge is able to lull the public that it’s okay to takeaway this right from registrants because registrants aren’t equal to free citizens.

Remember, judges made into law that slaves were just property, blacks should only count to 3/5ths of a person in a census, the Jim Crow laws, and the Japanese internment camps.

IMO, it all goes back to a simply idea called custody. Is a citizen in custody or out of custody. If a citizen is out of custody, then the state has no control over citizen because that is protected under the 13th amendment, which is involuntary servitude is prohibited except for punishment.

In California of 1958, the registry was punishment. Today, it is no longer punishment, but a regulatory scheme. That is thanks to SCOTUS’s 2003 Smith v Doe decision based upon false facts and believing the government’s intent it true and shall not dissuade. Tell that to the slaves who were legally recognized as property or that a black person can only be counted as 3/5ths of a person, or that “separate, but equal” was equal. The state states you are no longer punished as you are released from custody, but the registry places an individual back into custody of the state and controls that individual under penalty of law.

The SCOTUS said it’s okay to strip protected civil rights of citizens no longer under custody by negating the 13th amendment from a select group of citizens.

Timely thread for this topic given I was just researching Chief Justices (CJ) who have had their own court’s (e.g. Rehnquist court, et al) case precedent overturned by a subsequent case within their CJ terms. If you did not know, there has been a small number of them. I did not get into the voting or the cases themselves, but just on the basis of being overturned. (Sources: Chief Justice of the United States (time in the seat) and Table of Supreme Court Decisions Overruled by Subsequent Decisions)

I bring this up to see where the current CJ of SCOTUS could fall. Given he was not the CJ when Smith v Does was ruled on, but was the active USG atty arguing the case when it was ruled on, he could see Smith v Does overturned during his time (or reign if you prefer) as CJ, if SCOTUS agreed to hear it. Court make up irregardless, i.e. liberal or conservative, if the argument is right, they could agree to hear it and overturn it if argued appropriately.

The registry is clearly unconstitutional, but Congress and ALL state legislatures don’t care that they are violating the US Constitution and and ALL states Constitutions, because they are pocketing tones of dollars , and they count on the fact that most of the public is to dumb to realize what is happening and that the registry actually protects NO ONE from ANY ONE. It’s just a fear mongering tool to make millions of dollars of the registrants and the public.

Nothing complicated about indentured servitude, service to property upkeep. Either man is at liberty to chose to maintain machine or he is not.

where I am confused is if it is Civic why is it in criminal court?

TS my view of this Constitution is getting out of hand in many ways today. Sure one can understand legal issues but it would seem that government has the upper hand in many issues today and its very wrong in many ways as compared to many leagel issues

If the registry is just a civil thing then how do I get off? I don’t want to participate anymore. After all, if I don’t want to go through the hassle of renewing my Price Club membership I just stop being a Price Club member and don’t renew. Then it’s over.

I wouldn’t go to jail for not renewing my Price Club membership. A plumber or doctor wouldn’t go to jail for not renewing their respective licenses if they didn’t renew them and stopped practicing in their field. What’s my recourse?

SORNA is barely legal forced slavery.

It is because they say it is.
Once you become a sex offender, your no longer an American citizen your not even a human being, your a monster, a pice of Trash, a waste of space.
i wish everyone on this platform the best, I pray God protects you all from law enforcement and people out there willing to do you harm for whatever reason.
I would like to also thank this platform for putting up with me and letting me vent even though not every thing I say is positive or in favor of registrants.
I’m sorry if I offended anyone, I have a lot of anger built up from 23 years on the registry and I can’t stand being grouped together with people who hurt or abused children it’s hard for me, I try not to judge people I really do but it’s hard.

Sex Offender registries are only “constitutional” because we have the sheep masses glorifying charlatans like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ron Desantis on the right, and equally corrupt charlatans like Kkkamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, and greasy-haired Gavin Newsom (who dined at the French Laundry during all the COVID closures) on the left.

All equally abhorrent. There’s literally no good in our current government. All filth.

@American Traps…’ve hit on the point that I arrived at some time ago. I can’t name a politician on either side that doesn’t completely suck. Example: Gretchen Whitmer & Dana Nessel….both had some experience defending registrants and were viewed by many as possibly sympathetic avenues for relief. By the end of their first terms they have completely bought into PFRs as political capitol. As PFRs in Michigan we should be TERRIFIED of the Republican candidates for governor & attorney general if they were to win…..court rulings will go in our favor but politicians will ignore those rulings so I don’t really give a shit about ANY politicians….sorry to wake up & vent this fine Sunday morning but this thread struck a cord