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Convictions for most sexual offenses like Sexual Assault, Sexual Assault on a Child, and Unlawful Sexual Contact, require registration, including lifetime registration as a sex offender. That requirement was recently challenged in the Denver U.S. District Court after 3 men who are required to register filed a suit that claimed registering as a sex offender violates the U.S. Constitution's 8th Amendment cruel and unusual punishment clause. Colorado legislators in Adams and Jefferson County have maintained that the Sex Offender Registration Act is not punitive, but a measure taken to protect the community. The judge, however, found that the act causes those required to register and their families to face the threat of retribution. He said it opens offenders to punitive measures taken by the public, not under state law. He cited the 8th Amendment prohibition of public embarrassment or ostracizing, as cruel and unusual punishment.
What Does This Mean for Registering as a Sex Offender in Arapahoe or Douglas County?
In my opinion as an experienced criminal defense attorney handling cases that often require sex offender registration in Denver, Arapahoe, and Douglas County, this seems to be a step in the right direction. Whenever an extremely harsh law or act is challenged, it's good to see that some judges don't worry about politics, and can give an unbiased opinion and judgment. In this case, the court found that there was an ongoing punishment to people convicted of a sex offense – some facing the anguish for the rest of their lives. It seems that the main issue is the public access to the registration requirement, not the act of registering as a sex offender.
Modifying the Sex Offender Registration Act: No Public Access to the Sex Offender Registry Next Step in Denver?
The fact is, the recidivism rate is low among sexual offenders. There is no reason why law enforcement couldn't have access to this information, without it being shared with the public. We don't have a registry for other crimes, like drug possession or even violent crimes, so why should there be one for this one type of offense? Most of our clients who have been charged with a sex offense are good people who made a bad choice. However, the Sex Offender Registration Act doesn't allow them to pay for their crime and move forward. It effectually gives them a lifetime sentence.