CINCINNATI (CN) — Reporting requirements for sex offenders convicted before 1995, which can include in-person reporting, administrative fees and movement restrictions, do not violate the ex post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Volunteer State argued Thursday at a federal appeals court.
The state sought to overturn the ruling of a federal judge who found the exhaustive regulations punitive in nature when applied to individuals convicted before the registration system was established.
A class of convicted sex offenders filed suit in 2021 and claimed the onerous reporting requirements and restrictions on where they could travel within the state were excessively harsh and overly broad.
U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger, a Clinton appointee, agreed and granted the class’s motion for summary judgment in March 2023.
“At most,” she said in her opinion, “the defendants point to evidence establishing, unremarkably, that there is an ongoing risk that someone in Tennessee will commit sex crimes, which, the defendants argue, justifies restraining the plaintiffs and others with similar convictions since those individuals might go on to be the perpetrators. (Emphasis in original.)
“But that thin argument could just as readily support policies that would obviously constitute ex post facto punishments, such as retroactive increases in prison sentences. … [T]he act simply imposes its restrictions automatically on every person convicted by a jury of convicting a certain type of criminal offense — in other words, like a punishment.”
In its brief to the Sixth Circuit, the state argued Trauger erred when she lumped numerous pieces of legislation into a single “act” and analyzed whether the laws as a whole violated the ex post facto clause.