US Appeals Court: Indiana Sex Offender Registry Lacks Due Process

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Indiana sex offender registry lacks due process, a move that could force legislators to find a fix for long-standing problems with the sex and violent offender registry.

The federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the state’s registry was unconstitutional because it violated due process rights of ex-offenders in the registry who are not able to correct mistaken information, reports The Evening News and Tribune.

The Indiana sex offender registry is a publicly accessible database that shows personal information including photographs and addresses for sex and violent offenders in Indiana.

The case was brought forth on behalf of David Lee Schepers, a 50-year-old man who has been convicted of two sex offenses: a 1987 rape and two counts of child exploitation in 2006.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana spoke on behalf of Schepers, who argued that he was classified as a “sexually violent predator” mistakenly by the Indiana Department of Correction. The registry reportedly erroneously lists two rape convictions for him instead of one.

While the DOC allows incarcerated sex offenders to challenge information pending in the registry, it does not allow sex offenders who have already been released the same opportunity to challenge.

Because of this, Reuters notes that Circuit Judge Diane Wood wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that:

“The policy provides no process whatsoever to an entire class of registrants — those who are not incarcerated.” Therefore, they ruled the registry “constitutionally insufficient.”

The US appeals court decision on Tuesday reversed a ruling by US District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in Indianapolis in December 2011. The office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who represented the DOC in the appeal, is currently reviewing the court’s decision.

State legislators already began hearings this month for possible changes to the registry after the Indiana Supreme Court found some restrictions unconstitutional in 2009.