First Amendment WIN in Alabama: Alabama’s sex offense registration law, said to be “the most comprehensive and debilitating sex-offender scheme in the nation,” suffered some damage at the hands of a federal judge. A provision in the law that requires registrants to carry a driver’s license or official ID with “CRIMINAL SEX OFFENDER” emblazoned in red was struck down. That horrifying message legitimizes profiling by law enforcement (and others), ensuring that registrants are treated as suspects far into the future; even a coded message should be held unconstitutional. The court also struck down “internet identifier” provisions in the law. Kudos to all the John Does who fought for their rights and congratulations to their legal eagle, Mitch McGuire. Below are two reports, one by Jacob Sullum for Reason, the other by AL.com, and a link to the court’s ruling, have a look! –Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire firstname.lastname@example.org
Reason | Feb. 13, 2019
‘Sex Offenders Are Not Second-Class Citizens,’ Says Judge While Nixing Alabama Rules on First Amendment Grounds
The decision rejects driver’s licenses labeled “CRIMINAL SEX OFFENDER” and a broad demand for reports on internet use.
By Jacob Sullum
“Sex offenders are not second-class citizens,” writes U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins in a recent decision overturning two provisions of the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act (ASORCNA) on First Amendment grounds. “The Constitution protects their liberty and dignity just as it protects everyone else’s.” Those points, which should be obvious, are a sadly necessary corrective to the hysteria that has driven legislators in one state after another to enact indiscriminate, mindlessly restrictive, and covertly punitive laws aimed at sex offenders. ASORCNA, which Watkins calls “the most comprehensive and debilitating sex-offender scheme in the nation,” is a prime example.
The lead plaintiff in this case, dubbed John Doe 1, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure in the early 1990s, when he was living in Wisconsin. He received a six-month suspended sentence for each charge and was not required to register as a sex offender, even after moving to Alabama in 1994. But 14 years later, Alabama expanded its registry, forcing Doe to comply with ASORCNA’s numerous demands and restrictions under threat of imprisonment. Among other things, that meant his driver’s license was marked with the phrase “CRIMINAL SEX OFFENDER” in bold red letters. Here is how Doe describes the consequences of that notation:
I have never felt so embarrassed and ashamed in all of my life. I would not wish showing this on my worst enemy. It makes me not want to go places where I have to show it, and I try not to go places where I know I will have to. But every week, there is some places that ask me to show it, and every time, I get them evil looks from people—like I’m a murderer or something. I done paid for what I did over 25 years ago. Nobody should have to carry this. It ain’t right, but I don’t have a way out. MORE:
AL.com | Feb. 12, 2019
Some Alabama sex offender registration laws are unconstitutional, federal judge rules
By Anna Beahm
Excerpts: U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins ruled part of Alabama’s internet reporting requirements and branded identification requirements are unconstitutional. Alabama’s sex offender registration and notification laws have been called some of the most stringent in the nation.
Watkins’ ruling also declared unconstitutional the state’s requirement for sex offenders to have a valid driver’s license or other identification card that identifies the person as a sex offender.
The judgment was in favor of the plaintiff’s claims that sex offender registration laws have changed since 2003 when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a registration scheme that imposed registration and internet notification only with effects that were “minor and indirect.” Watkins also ruled in favor of the plaintiffs’ claims that aspects of Alabama’s sex offender reporting laws are so vague that full compliance with the law is impossible. MORE:
Doe v. Marshall
U.S. District Court for Alabama Case No. 2:15-CV-606
Opinion and Order, Feb. 11, 2019: