MT: Montana decision that Sexual or Violent Offender Registration Act (SVORA) is punitive and cannot be applied retroactively

Source: 6/14/23

The THE STATE OF MONTANA Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the State’s felony charge against him for failure to register as a sexual offender, holding that the Sexual or Violent Offender Registration Act (SVORA), as amended since 2007, was punitive in nature.

Defendant was convicted of sexual assault in 1994 and served and discharged his sentence. At the time, SVORA, known then as Montana’s Sexual offender Registration Act, required Defendant to maintain registration for ten years. When the legislature amended SVORA, it included more onerous steps and applied them retroactively to previously convicted registrants such as Defendant. In 2019, Defendant was charged with failure to register. Defendant appealed, arguing that the amended SVORA requirements rendered the statute an unconstitutional ex post facto punishment for his earlier crime. The STATE OF MONTANA Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) SVORA as amended is punitive in nature; and (2) therefore, the requirements brought on by those amendments could not retroactively be applied to defendants whose convictions predate the amendments.

Read the full decision


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We should use this as a basis of thought to change the current registration laws in California. Mainly anyone convicted before 2021 (when the new registration laws began), and receives a certificate of rehabilitation should not be required to register. I plead guilty purely because I was told after 10 years and after receiving the COR I would not have to register anymore. However a year and half before I am able to possess the COR they change the law.

Definitely a step in the righ..correct direction!

I still find it confusing how this law can be punitive in one set of circumstances, such as the retroactive application, but not in others. It either is, or it is not punitive. If it is, then it is in all circumstances.

If it is punitive, how is it not cruel and unusual to subject people to this for life with no hope of relief? Perhaps in the most extreme of circumstances, it could be justified on an individual basis, but only in the most extreme, individual circumstances.

Goo decision by the judge. This is one of our main issues in our Does III lawsuit in Michigan.

Even though this case is 4 months old here where the oral argument

Everyone on the registry should read this decision. As a whole, the decision was based on a violation of the Ex Post Facto principle and the fact that registration requirements became more onerous over time.

For instance, under the old registration law, you registered once, then returned a yearly form in the mail verifying that you lived in the same place. Over time, new conditions were added. Now you have to report to a police station, get fingerprinted, new photograph, list all internet handles, update new jobs & schools within 3 days, provide license plate numbers, ect.

The registry itself is now the direct cause of at least two handicaps. The first is that you are denied public housing if you are on the registry. In other words, you can be a convicted sex offender and still get public housing if you are not on the registry. However, being on the registry denies that.

The second thing is the Passport Identifier for people on the registry. Once again, this identifier is not the result of the underlying conviction, but a direct result of being on the registry. This concurs with some suggestion that people living overseas and not required to register have gotten the identifier removed from their passport.

Chief Justice Mike McGrath was specially concurring due to Montana Constitution Article II, Section 28(2) which states that all rights should be restored once a person completes their sentence. He argues that this includes the right to privacy.

He also argues that State vs. Mount was bad law due to disregarding privacy concerns. State vs. Mount was basically Montana’s agreement with the original Doe vs. State case from Alaska that reached the U.S. Supreme court. Basically McGrath argues that right to privacy should be restored once a person completes their sentence. Note that there was a comment by a dissenting judge that this argument might be brought up in future cases. Which makes me wonder what is going on behind the scenes.

Justice Dirk Sandefur also concurring. He also says this overrides State. vs. Mount. So now we have two judges that believe the original State vs. Mount decision was wrong.

Judge McGrath noted that there is a question about the effectiveness of the registry which makes the state’s interest argument questionable. He also notices that the state has a simple alternative which is to make registration part of the sentence prospectively, not retroactively.

The original registration law was amended in 2007. Before that registration was for ten years. So it seems to me that if your conviction was before 2007, you should be able to live in Montana without being forced to register. Can anyone weigh in on this?

It would be nice if all the states would rule the exact same way. But sadly if it doesn’t happen through the U.S. supreme courts I don’t see Kansas reversing their earlier decision that it’s all just civil and deal with it till you DIE!! I think it’s amazing for the PFR in Montana and any other state that fallows. Let’s GO Pennsylvania 🤞🤞 I just think Kansas will be the last. Wish the entire New England area would do the same as Montana too!

Highlight this far and wide. The single most declarative ruling on the registry found to date.

The STATE OF MONTANA Supreme Court reversed, holding … SVORA as amended is punitive in nature.

Last edited 2 months ago by Eric Knight