|High Court to Test Sex Offender Law|
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a constitutional challenge to state laws allowing the posting of information about past sex offenders on public Web site registries.
The court ruled it will hear an appeal to a federal judge's ruling that Connecticut's state sex offender registry law violated the constitutional rights of past sex offenders by posting their information without allowing them a chance to prove they were no longer a threat to society.
Connecticut removed its online public sex offender registry after New York's 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision and ruled the state must provide sex offenders a hearing on whether they remain "currently dangerous" before making their information public.
In its decision, the appeals court stated that Connecticut's law "fails to accommodate the constitutional rights of persons formerly convicted of a wide range of sexual offenses who are branded as likely to be currently dangerous offenders irrespective of whether or not they are."
The State of Connecticut, with the support of the U.S. Department of Justice, have appealed 2nd Circuit's ruling to the Supreme Court.
All 50 U.S. states currently have similar sex offender registry laws based on New Jersey's "Megan's Law" allowing the posting of names, addresses, photographs, and identifying information of convicted sex offenders on public Web sites of state and local police agencies.
In a "friend-of-the-court" brief, Justice Department lawyers told the Supreme Court, "Megan's laws serve vital government interests by assisting law enforcement and enabling American communities to better protect themselves, and in particular their children."
Similar briefs supporting sex offender registry laws were filed by 23 states and the District of Columbia.
Under Connecticut's law non-violent sex offenders are required to register with the state for a period of 10 years following their release, while sexually violent offenders must register for life. All offenders are required to report their current names. addresses and physical descriptions, and to provide DNA samples and current photographs.
Megan's Laws are named after a New Jersey girl named Megan Kanka, who was raped and killed by a neighbor in 1994. Kanka's parents were unaware the neighbor was a convicted sex offender.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case, Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. John Doe, this October at the start of its 2002 term.