Lawsuit over Idaho’s sex-offender registry laws expands to 134 plaintiffs

A lawsuit filed last year by 104 sex offenders challenging Idaho’s laws that require registration and community notification of sex offenders has been expanded to 134 sex offenders.

They say the laws violate an array of constitutional rights, from the prohibition on double jeopardy to freedom of religion.

Twin Falls attorney Greg Fuller filed an amended complaint April 27 in U.S. District Court in Boise on behalf of 134 unnamed sexual offenders, identified as John or Jane Does 1-134.

The plaintiffs come from across the state and 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, plaintiff John Doe 109, of Boise County, was convicted in 2002 in Connecticut of possession of child pornography, a felony. After serving 13 months in prison, he moved to Idaho. Under changes to Idaho’s law, he has been required to register as a sex offender since 2010.

Plaintiff John Doe 122, of Nez Perce County, was convicted in 1998 in Idaho of lewd conduct with a child under age 16. In 2001 and 2009, Idaho changed its laws making his offense an aggravated one. He is now required to register for life as an aggravated offender.

The 145-page amended complaint names more than 35 defendants, including Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, the Idaho Department of Correction, the Idaho State Police, the Idaho Sex Offender Management Board and the sheriffs of the 25 counties where the plaintiffs reside. The lawsuit seeks a permanent order to stop the state and its counties from enforcing some portions of the law.

Fuller filed the lawsuit in September but never served the defendants, instead notifying the court that he intended to file an amended complaint later.

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office said Monday that it could not comment because it had not yet been served with the complaint.

Here is how the sex offenders say their constitutional guarantees are violated:

▪  Double jeopardy: The laws impose new punishments on sex offenders previously convicted based on the crime originally committed.

▪  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.

▪  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.

▪  Cruel and unusual punishment: The laws impose excessive punishment, community-notification requirements that can subject sex offenders to violence at the hands of vigilantes.

▪  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.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

Related stories from Idaho Statesman