ACLU of Indiana Wins U.S. Court of Appeals Due Process Case
Indiana Department of Correction’s Sex Offender Registry Process “constitutionally insufficient”
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Indianapolis –Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed a U.S. District court ruling that had allowed the Indiana Department of Correction to operate a public sex offender database that failed to provide minimal procedures for those listed on the registry to challenge its accuracy. The Court called the process used by the DOC “constitutionally insufficient.”
“The Court found that the only way to guard against stigmatizing errors is to afford minimal due process,” said Ken Falk, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, who argued the case before the Seventh Circuit.
David Schepers committed a sex offense in 1986 and in 2004, but was neither a “sexual predator” nor “violent offender” under Indiana law. The DOC’s online Indiana Sex and Violent Offender Registry listed Schepers, who was not incarcerated, as a sexual predator, and also listed him as committing an offense he never committed. The Department of Correction provides no avenues for people listed on the registry who are not incarcerated to challenge listings that are factually erroneous, which violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Court also observed that providing additional procedures to correct registry errors may benefit the state as well as registrants. “Erroneously labeling an offender a sexually violent predator imposes unnecessary monitoring costs on state law enforcement and reduces the efficacy of the registry in providing accurate information to the public,” the ruling said.
Jane Henegar, Executive Director for the ACLU of Indiana, said, “The ACLU of Indiana remains vigilant in protecting individual rights within a rapidly changing technological and communications environment to ensure those changes do not outstrip our civil liberties.”
Today’s ruling, David Schepers, et al., v. Commissioner, Indiana Department of Correction, was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit under cause number 11-3834. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, cause number 1:09-cv-1324 TWP-TAB.