February 21, 2024
If you’re convicted of a sex crime, one of the consequences of that crime usually involves having to register as a sex offender. Every state, along with our federal government, has a sex offender registry, but one court has found that a sex offender registry is unconstitutional.
That court is right here in our state. A federal judge in Denver recently ruled that having to register as a sex offender violated the Eighth Amendment rights of three plaintiffs. More specifically, that having to register as a sex offender could be considered cruel and unusual punishment.
David Millard, Eugene Knight, and Arturo Vega were all convicted of sexual assault against a child. The plaintiffs claim “people who commit certain sexual assaults shouldn’t have to register as a sex offender because it follows them throughout their lives, and…the punishment exceeds the crime.”
The judge’s decision in this case was partly based on the plaintiffs’ claims that the registry opened them up to retaliation, which has “scarred them for life.”
Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, who is appealing the controversial decision, says it is the plaintiffs’ victims who have been scarred for life. She asserts that the sex offender registry is intended to protect, saying, “We do know there is a propensity to reoffend…and people deserve the information and the ability to make a choice about how they protect themselves from that risk.”
So what does this court’s ruling mean for current Colorado sex offenders required to register?
The Impact of the Unconstitutional Ruling
While this ruling is definitely a win for the three plaintiffs and opens up the discussion about the constitutionality of a sex offender registry, the three men aren’t off the registry just yet.
If you are convicted of certain sex crimes in Colorado, you will be required to register as a sex offender for a specified period of time. Once you have successfully completed your registration period, though, you aren’t allowed to simply stop registering. In fact, you have to ask the Colorado courts for permission to discontinue your sex offender registration.
Depending on the circumstances of your crime and what you have done with your life throughout the course of your punishment and registration period, the court will either grant or deny your request. If they grant your request, you will no longer have to register as a sex offender. If they deny your request, however, you will have to continue registering.
So the three plaintiffs in the Colorado case have to continue registering, but this ruling could help them seek post-conviction relief when they go back to the state court.
The impact of this ruling will also depend on what happens in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. If the ruling stands and it gets appealed again, the case might end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
What Is the Future of the Sex Offender Registry?
This case could set a precedent for future cases and put registering as a sex offender up for debate both in our state and nationally.
A Grand Junction defense attorney says that the entire sex offender registration act needs an overhaul. “It’s a little draconian and heavy handed and punitive,” he said. “Instead of giving a mandatory cookie cutter approach, apply more of a customized approach.”
Only time will tell what happens with this ruling and the future of having to register as a sex offender. In the meantime, if you have questions regarding your own registration or you been charged with a sex crime and want to know if you can avoid registering, reach out to an experienced Colorado sex crimes attorney today.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.