While lawyers for the 15 plaintiffs — each referred to in court documents only as John Doe — argued that registration is an unconstitutional punishment, the majority ruling cited the U. Supreme Court in dismissing the challenge. Levy and Ellen Gorman. The decision is the latest chapter in the decades-long public conversation about the utility of the registry.
It is unlikely to be appealed to the U. Supreme Court, the only possible avenue for recourse, said Jim Mitchell, the attorney who argued on behalf of the John Does. Mitchell, nevertheless, called the ruling a disappointment. Silver, Donald Alexander and Joseph Jabar argued that the publication of personal information is a shaming technique they consider a continued punishment, even after offenders serve out the term of their court-mandated sentence.
Under the law, a sex offender is required to provide his or her photo, name, address and other detailed information to the state, which then publishes it in a online database where members of the public can easily find information, perhaps including the names of offenders who live near them.
Currently in Maine, 2, people are active registered offenders, according to the state. To test whether the registry system is an unconstitutional punishment, the justices relied on a technical seven-point evaluation that is established in case law.
The court decision is the latest development in the life of the controversial registry law, which has changed significantly since it was first put into effect in An update to the law passed in included in the statute a wider variety of offenses, imposed harsher penalties and created two separate categories for convicts: Sex offenders were required to register for a decade, while sexually violent predators were required to register for life.
The revision also separated the registration process from sentencing, removed the possibility for waiving registration after five years if offenders met certain criteria for good behavior and removed the power previously held by sentencing judges to opt against requiring registration all together.
The publicly available Internet database was created in In , the law was expanded again to apply to offenders convicted after The Legislature created an exception in That law allowed people sentenced for sexual crimes between Jan. The exception was later expanded to include convictions between and Sept. Some had been convicted of multiple counts of sexual offenses, which the Legislature designated as a negating factor in granting the exception.
The split ruling Tuesday is not likely to end the long-running debate over the Maine sex-offender list. While the majority of justices agreed that the purpose of the law is public safety, the dissenting justices diverged sharply and pointed to scholarly criticism of the registry system as an ineffective tool for deterrence. Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be contacted at: