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Indiana has a sex offender registry. That's not surprising. Most states do.
But the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that Indiana's sex offender registry violates due process.
That is surprising.
So where did Indiana go wrong with its registry?
The state's registry erroneously listed some registered sex offenders as "sexually violent predators," Reuters reports.
Indiana adopted its sex offender registry in 1994. Now, registration is required after conviction for 21 different offenses, (including some non-sex offenses such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, and kidnapping).
David Schepers, one of an estimated 24,000 registrants in the Indiana system, sued the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC), alleging that the DOC failed to provide any procedure to correct errors in the registry violates due process. (Schepers, who is categorized as an "Offender Against Children," had been mistakenly classified in the registry as a "Sexually Violent Predator.")
Schepers had tried to correct this error, but found that the DOC provided no official channel or administrative mechanism for registry corrections.
The DOC responded to the lawsuit with a new policy to give notice to current prisoners about their pending registry listings and an opportunity to challenge the information. The district court granted summary judgment on the ground that the new policy was sufficient to comply with due process.
The new procedures, however, still failed to provide due process for registrants who are not currently incarcerated.
On appeal, the DOC argued that it was not directly responsible for errors in the registry, and that registrants had other procedures to challenge mistakes. (In other words, it wasn't the proper party to provide due process, if process was actually due.) The Seventh Circuit didn't buy that argument.
The appellate court concluded that the DOC "has sufficient responsibility over the registry to be compelled to provide any additional process that may be required."
The Seventh Circuit also reasoned that the lack of due process for released registrants was problematic.
Writing for the court, Judge Diane Wood concluded that the DOC's process for registry corrections was constitutionally insufficient because it provided "no process whatsoever to an entire class of registrants -- those who are not incarcerated."
The Seventh Circuit's decision doesn't mean that the Indiana sex offender registry is a thing of the past; it just means that Indiana DOC has to provide meaningful due process to all of the registrants.