More than 100 sex offenders are challenging Idaho’s laws that require registration and community notification of sex offenders, saying the laws violate an array of constitutional rights, from the prohibition on double jeopardy to freedom of religion.
Twin Falls lawyer Greg Fuller sued Thursday in Boise federal court on behalf of 104 unnamed sexual offenders, identified as John or Jane Does 1-104. The lawsuit seeks a permanent order to stop the state and its counties from enforcing some portions of the law.
The plaintiffs come from across the state and around the country. Most were convicted of sexual offenses in the 1980s and 1990s. One of their major complaints is that amendments since then to Idaho’s sex-offender registry laws amount to retroactive punishment, which is unconstitutional.
For example, John Doe 100, of Bannock County, was convicted of a misdemeanor sexual offense in Montana in 1996. His offense did not require registration in Montana. He moved to Idaho in 2005 and was not required to register until 2007, 11 years after his conviction, when Idaho authorities reclassified his offense as a felony rather than the original misdemeanor.
Another plaintiff, John Doe 80, of Lemhi County, was convicted of a sexual offense there in 1989. He was released from prison in 1993. In 2013, 20 years after being released from custody, he was told he must register for life as an aggravated offender.
John Doe 5, a resident of Texas, was convicted of a sexual offense in Jerome County in 1988. His offense was not considered aggravated until 2009, 21 years after the date of conviction. He is now required to register for life as an aggravated offender.
Here is how the lawsuit says other constitutional guarantees are violated:
Due process: Idaho law is vague, and it reassesses offenders and subjects them to new restrictions without a hearing.
Equal protection: The laws are designed to burden an unpopular group.
Religious freedom: Some churches and other places of worship fall within the places certain sex offenders cannot be, thereby interfering with offenders’ rights to practice religion.
Cruel and unusual punishment: The laws impose excessive punishment, community-notification requirements that can subject sex offenders to violence at the hands of vigilantes.
Double jeopardy: The laws impose new punishments on sex offenders previously convicted based on the crime originally committed.
Contracts: The laws impose new non-negotiated terms on previously negotiated plea agreements.
Takings: The laws place residential and movement restrictions on sex offenders, restricting property rights.
Separation of powers: The laws vacate earlier court judgments setting sex offenders’ classifications, community-notification requirements and length of times sex offenders must register.
The 73-page complaint names more than 35 defendants, including Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Idaho Department of Correction Director Kevin Kempf, Idaho State Police Director Col. Ralph Powell, and the sheriffs of the 21 counties where the plaintiffs reside.
Wasden declined to comment.