Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On The Docket: Stopping The Insanity

Gerry Porter bought a home in Green Township in 1991. In 1995, he was convicted of a misdemeanor sex-related crime, and in 1999, he was convicted of sexual battery. The trial court labelled him a sexually-oriented offender.

In 2003, Ohio enacted what we all call the "1,000-foot rule," the law that forbids sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school. A couple years later, the folks in Green Township realized (likely with the help of a GPS device) that Porter's house was 983 feet from St. Jude Elementary. Even though the school isn't visible from the house (or vice-versa) and walking or driving from the house to the school would require traversing a distrance of much more than 1,000 feet, Green Township filed an ejectment action against Pyle. Green Township won in the trial court and again in the court of appeals, even though Porter owned his home and had committed his offense prior to the enactment of the law.

Today, the Ohio Supreme Court, in a 6-1 decision, held that the law is not retroactive. In other words, people like Porter--whose offense was commited prior to the law and who owned a home within 1,000 feet of a school prior to the law--cannot be ejected. The decision does not stop the Ohio legislature from redrafting the law to make it retroactive; the court declined to reach the issue of whether such a law would be constitutional.

This is a terrific win for the Ohio Justice and Policy Center and its director, Cincinnati attorney David Singleton. It's an important first step in injecting some notion of fairness and sanity to Ohio's sex offender registration laws.

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