Another challenge to Alabama's SO laws has been filed.
Alabama Sex Offender Law Challenged
By JOHN BRACKIN
Wednesday, August 26, 2015Last Update: 4:57 AM PT
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (CN) - Sex offenders in Alabama must comply with debilitating restrictions that encompass "virtually every facet of their lives," eight men claim in a class action.
Eight John Doe plaintiffs sued General Luther Strange III and Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency John Richardson in Federal Court.
The Aug. 20 complaint seeks court relief to prevent application of the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act, or ASORCNA, claiming the law is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit argues that the act violates due process by denying sex offender registrants certain fundamental rights. It also claims that the law is vague and should be declared void.
"The plaintiffs ask this court to recognize what other courts across the country have increasingly found: that the nature of sex offender registration has fundamentally changed since 2003, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a registration scheme that imposed registration and Internet notification only with effects that were 'minor and indirect' restraints on registrants," the complaint states.
Alabama first passed a sex offender registration law in 1967, according to the complaint. The law at the time called for a one-time registration with the sheriff of the offender's home county, and the registration information was only available to law enforcement.
The state passed its Community Notification Act in 1996, which "was not retroactively applied, and required only written notification upon an offenders change in address," as opposed to in-person registration, the complaint states.
And in 2011, Alabama passed the current version of its sex offender law, which is retroactively applied to all adult sex offenders in the state and requires quarterly, in-person registration.
The law places restrictions on where registered sex offenders are allowed to live and work and "requires the distribution of community-notification flyers to those living near a registrant's residence," according to the complaint. It also requires registrants to carry a driver's license or ID card that "enables law enforcement officers to identify the licensee as a sex offender."
In addition, registered sex offenders are required to report their travel plans whenever they intend to be away from their home county for three or more consecutive days, the lawsuit states.
"ASORCNA violates the plaintiffs' fundamental rights to travel, to work, to speak and to be free from arbitrary and oppressive laws without being lawfully tailored in a manner to meet Alabama's interest," the complaint states.
The law's provisions are applied "for life and without regard to the nature of the offense, the age of the victim, or the passage of time since the underlying sex offense," according to the complaint.
The anonymous plaintiffs claim Alabama imposes an unprecedented number of "obligations, disabilities, and restraints" on registered sex offenders, making its law the most restrictive of its kind in the country.
"ASORCNA severely limits registrants' ability to: maintain intimate associations with family; find housing and employment; travel; engage in free speech activities or refrain from speaking; be free from shame, embarrassment, humiliation and stigma; and understand what is required of them under the statute," the complaint states.
The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Alabama's current sex offender law is unconstitutional and void. The eight plaintiffs are represented by J. Mitch McGuire in Montgomery, Ala.