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Like the lawsuit recently filed and won in Michigan, Tennessee now faces a lawsuit regarding retoactive enforcement of the sex-offender registry.
Tuesday a case was filed in U.S. District Court in Nashville arguing that TN’s registration laws are illegally applied retroactively. And, no surprise to us, it goes on to include how vague and over-reaching the restrictions of the registry have become. So vague in fact, that those in charge of implementing the restrictions are hard pressed to know exactly what they mean. This of course leaves registrants bewildered and at a loss as to whether or not they are in compliance with the vague restrictions in any given circumstance, and potentially “sets them up” for parole violations.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a man whose offense stemmed from a 1994 aggravated sexual battery against his daughter. This was “before” the state’s first sex-offender registry was devised. At that time he was sentenced and completed a 5 yr. probation, has had no convictions since, has maintained a home and job and a seemingly “normal” life.
In 2011 Nashville Police and U.S.Marshals, the lawsuit alleges, began harassing this man and prosecutors threatened to have him arrested because he lived in a duplex which was next door to his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. He was advised that the duplex was a “single family residence”, even though anyone with a brain knows that a duplex constitutes “2” separate living quarters. The lawsuit mentions how this man was forced out of his own home with “45 minutes” to pack up, and remained out of his home while fighting the courts in Nashville. It also mentions the disrespect afforded to the man when several officers knocked on his door saying “Are you the sex-offender” loud enough for his neighbors to hear.
The lawsuit, which is 50+ pages, is an extremely interesting read. It challenges the on-going, ever-mounting restrictions of the registry and its retroactive application on registrants. According to the lawsuit, these applications violate the due process clause of the 14th Amendment as well as the “ex post facto” clause.
I was pleased to see that the lawsuit included tidbits about the vagueness of the registry when it comes to where one can live, work and how hard it would be to ever be in compliance with parts of the registry.
Here is a great example of the insane restrictions: Suppose a registrant from TN wants to go to Florida for a 6 day vacation. According to the registry, after 5 days the registrant would be required to “register” in Florida. Also according to the registry, the registrant would need to notify Florida 48 hrs before he plans to leave the state to return to TN. That would mean the registrant would need to notify Florida on the 4th day of his vacation that he planned to leave the state on the 6th day, while, according to the law, he wouldn’t have even registered until the 5th day. It’s crazy.
The lawsuit also addressed the difficulty of family issues and personal safety when one is on the registry. Hopefully the more these issues are brought to light, the powers that be will understand the necessity for change.
The plantiff’s lawyer in this case is requesting that this man be removed from the registry as he had pleaded no-contest “before” the registry even exsisted. The Govenor of TN as well as the Director of the TN Bureau of Investigation (which maintains the registry), have been named in the lawsuit.
I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see this case go to court, the impact it could have on all future cases if the ruling is favorable is enormous. The registry needs to be overhauled, it was originally meant to keep tabs on the most violent pedophiles, but has now come to include so many more that shouldn’t be on it.
One state at a time, that’s all it will take.!