IN: Seventh Circuit revisits controversial Indiana sex offender law

Source: 1/6/23

The Seventh Circuit heard arguments over Indiana’s controversial Sex Offender Registration Act on Friday morning, and not for the first time.

Instead, it was just the latest skirmish in an ongoing legal struggle between the Indiana Department of Corrections, the District Court of Southern Indiana and the judges of the Seventh Circuit.

Indiana enacted the law known as SORA in 1994, requiring that those convicted of sex offenses in other states must also register as sex offenders in Indiana if they live or work there. It also contains a provision stating that convicted sex offenders moving to Indiana from another state must register even if their offense took place before the enactment of the law.

This contrasts with the law’s treatment of those who committed pre-SORA sex offenses while living in Indiana, and those who continue to live there after their offense. Those in-state residents are not required to register if they weren’t required to do so prior to SORA’s enactment or its subsequent revisions.

This divergent treatment between in-state and out-of-state offenders prompted a constitutional challenge to the law in October 2016, brought by six men placed on the SORA registry despite being convicted of sex offenses prior to SORA taking effect. The men claimed that SORA inhibited their constitutional right to travel across state lines, and violated the state’s ex post facto clause and the federal equal protection clause – that is, punished them under a law that did not exist when they made their offenses, and more severely than longtime Indiana residents.

In a July 2019 ruling, U.S. District Judge Richard Young agreed. The Bill Clinton appointee barred the state from applying SORA penalties to the six men, which in turn prompted the Indiana Department of Corrections to appeal his decision to the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit.

Following a lengthy appeal process that concluded with an en banc hearing, the majority of the appellate court chose in August 2021 to overturn Young’s ruling on the travel and ex post facto claims, and remand the case for further evaluation on the equal protection claim. It was a split 7-3 decision, with the majority finding that even longtime Hoosiers who were compelled to register under SORA would face the same consequences as the six plaintiffs.

“The plaintiffs argue that SORA violates their right to travel by treating them differently based on their length of residency in Indiana. We disagree,” U.S. Circuit Judge Amy St. Eve, a Donald Trump appointee, wrote in the 2021 majority opinion. “SORA may affect newer residents disproportionately, but it does not discriminate based on residency. Consequently, it does not violate the right to travel as the Supreme Court has articulated it.”

However, after the case returned to the district court, Young once again found for the plaintiffs. He ruled this past May that SORA violates the equal protection clause and barred the state from requiring the six men to register as sex offenders. Yet another appeal from the Indiana DOC followed.

Indiana urged a three-judge panel to overturn a federal judge’s ruling that barred prosecution of six men who didn’t register as sex offenders after moving to the state.


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I’m not surprised. Indiana is one of 5 states that allow their Dept of Corrections to run the sex offender registry. When you have an organization in the business of locking people up, they want you to be on a registry, have more restrictions, and increase your chances of getting locked up again so you’d become a ward of the DOC. They love new customers. Indiana is just a mirror image of Wisconsin which does the opposite. They put more onerous restrictions (like continual registration while out of the country) on people convicted in the state. Whereas if you were convicted outside of Wisconsin, those rules don’t apply. Wisconsin also has the right wing controlled 7th district court rubber stamping the DOC. At least with Indiana, you have a choice to move to that sorry state and face registration despite your conviction occuring before the state SOR law. Lesson learned. Don’t move to Indiana. Don’t move back to Indiana.

SORA may affect newer residents disproportionately, but it does not discriminate based on residency.”
Huh?? 🤨 🤔
Perhaps I am reading it wrong, but that sentence seems to contradict itself. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Last edited 4 months ago by David🔱

So…. there seems to be an understanding by the Courts (at least, in this case) that being required to register is punishment.
And if this case is getting frustrating to Judge Easterbrook, how does he think it feels to the registrants to whom this BS applies! 🙄

“”What the Supreme Court of Indiana is trying to do is figure out… how to define who’s being punished. And they come up with a definition… different from the definition you would obviously prefer,” Easterbrook said to Rose. “But isn’t a stretch to say that the definition the Supreme Court of Indiana came up with is positively irrational?”


“We’re talking about someone who committed the exact same offense on the exact same day, even in the exact same place, may have received the exact same penalty, may even have begun interacting with Indiana on the exact same date… and only one of those persons is subject [to SORA]”. Funny how the difference is the defendants left the state then came back. Sound like residency discrimination to me. Also sounds like these idiot Judges  believes if they say
 it, it must be true.  

Isn’t the Seventh the home area of Chief Justice Roberts? Isn’t he from Indiana? His role in the run up to Smith V Doh03 would be an interesting topic. Ex post language is invariably retrospective by definition and “no law” means just that. Given the current US Congress just established ” the rules for this term” let us pray the rules do not include condoning the use of retrospective language upon crimes already processed.