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Judge Rules Against State in Tennessee Sex Offender Registry Lawsuit

 Posted on December 14,2021 in Criminal Defense

Knox County criminal defense attorneyThere are two clauses in the U.S. Constitution that specifically prohibits governments from retroactively changing punishments for a crime that was previously committed. This clause also bars a government from changing the rules of evidence in a case or punishing conduct that was legal at the time it was committed. These laws are referred to as Ex Post Facto and according to a recent ruling by a federal judge, the state of Tennessee is in violation of this clause for how they have continued to enforce retroactive punishments against sex offenders, including some whose crimes took place decades before the Tennessee sex offender registry law went into effect.  

Federal Lawsuit

In her recent ruling, the judge ordered the removal of eight different men from the state’s sex offender registry list, as well as ordering the state to stop imposing restrictions on what these men can and cannot do, accusing the state of “flouting the Constitution’s guarantees.”

The state’s lawyers argued that the eight men should be kept on the registry in order to prevent future offenses and for the protection of the public. However, in her ruling, the judge pointed out that the state failed to provide any evidence that any of the men posed a threat to the public.

In many of the cases, the men were convicted years ago, prior to the sex offender law being enacted, yet their lives today were still being severely impacted. In one of the cases, the man had pled guilty in 1994 of second-degree sexual assault of his girlfriend. The crime took place in Hawaii. The man had long ago completed his probation and had never been convicted of another crime. He is married, has children, and owns a successful business.

However, under the state’s sex offender laws, the man is still required to report to law enforcement – in person – within 48 hours of changing his residence, his job, purchasing a vehicle, creating a new email address, or opening a Facebook account. If he fails to report, he can be arrested and prosecuted. He is not allowed to be around children – even though his offense did not involve a child – including attending his own children’s school events. In his lawsuit against the state, the man described one incident where his child was injured at school and when the man arrived at the school to make sure his child was okay, law enforcement was called by school officials.

When making her decision, the judge also pointed out another federal judge’s similar decision in 2016 who ordered two men to be removed from the registry, citing the unconstitutionality of punishing the men with laws that were written after their convictions.

Contact a Knox County Defense Attorney

If you have been accused of a sexual offense, a conviction could mean lifetime requirement of complying with the state’s sex offender registry. Call Jeffrey Coller, Knoxville Criminal Defense Attorney at 865-281-1000 to speak with a Knoxville, TN sex crimes attorney to find out what legal options you may have against these charges.



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