Maryland court rules in sex offender registry case

A Maryland appellate court ruled that the state could not require people convicted of sex offenses prior to the creation of the sex offender registry to register.

In July 2014, a Maryland appellate court issued an opinion dealing with the state's sex offender registry laws. The decision in the case could potentially remove up to 1,800 names from the approximately 8,000 names that are on the state's online database of registered sex offenders.

Appealing registry requirement

The case before the court arose because a man argued that the state's requirement that he register as a sex offender was unconstitutional because he was convicted for an incident that occurred before the sex offender registry was created in October of 1995. The man had pled guilty to a single count of child abuse for an event that happened with a 13-year-old in 1984. The man argued that making him register as a sex offender was punishing him twice for the same offense. In 2013, the appellate court agreed with the man that making those who committed their offenses before the registry was created violated state law and ordered the name removed from Maryland's sex offender registry.

Retroactive registry unconstitutional

State authorities argued that federal laws required them to keep the names of those on the registry who committed their offenses before the registry was created by state law because the state registry feeds federal databases. The man whose name was removed from the registry, joined by another man who had been convicted for a third degree sex offense in 1997, returned to court to challenge the state's assertion that federal law mandated that old cases needed to remain on the registry.

The appellate court held that federal law could not require something that violated state law. Many believe that the state must now automatically remove the names of those convicted for incidents that happened before October 1995, and that people should not have to go to court to petition to get their names removed. A spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office reported that state lawyers were studying the decision and then would make recommendations to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services on how to proceed with its management of the registry.

Facing sex offense charges

Being convicted of a sexual offense in Maryland is a very serious matter. Not only could you face jail time and fines, but you may also have to register as a sex offender for at least 15 years - and possibly for your whole life. If you are facing charges related to a sex offense, speak with an attorney with experience handling these serious cases who can help minimize the damage that these charges can do to your life.

Keywords: sex offenses; sex offender registry; sex crimes