A new ruling from a Maryland court could lead to as many as one in four names being removed from the state’s sex-offender registry. The ruling was issued by the Maryland Appeals Court on June 30. Justices decided that some of the sex crime registry members had their constitutional rights violated when they were added to the list.
Maryland sex offenders can be required to register for terms of 15 years, 25 years or even life, depending on the nature of their conviction. A searchable online list of these offenders is available for the general public. Victims’ rights advocates said they were disappointed about the ruling, as they see the registry as a helpful tool that can identify potential sexual offenders in an area. However, about 1,800 people could now be dropped from the list because of the new ruling.
The ruling deals with offenders whose criminal convictions date back before October 1995. That is when the state’s sex-offender registry was established. Officials argued that federal law required them to track older cases in a formal database. However, the state court decided that federal law should not supersede the Maryland Constitution. Now, about 25 percent of the sex offenders listed on the registry stand to have their names removed thanks to the higher court’s decision.
This is an excellent example of a court promoting defendants’ rights. Even though someone may be accused – or even convicted – of committing a sex offense, they should not be unfairly added to the sex offender registry retroactively. Criminal defendants and even convicts deserve to have their fundamental rights preserved throughout the legal process.
Source: The Washington Post, "Maryland Appeals Court restricts who can be listed on state’s sex-offender registry," Ian Duncan, July 1, 2014.