OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit urging the court to reverse a federal judge’s declaration that the Colorado sex offender registration is unconstitutional.
Joining the brief in support of Colorado were attorneys general from all other states in the jurisdiction of the 10th circuit including, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
The brief comes after a ruling last August by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch that held the Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act violated the constitutional rights of three sex offenders because it required them to register with the state on a database accessible to the public.
The judge found the act violated the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and the 14th Amendment guarantees of due process.
Attorney General Hunter said although the ruling involves only one Colorado case, it has wide-ranging implications for access to sex offender registries nationwide if upheld.
“This ruling undermines the rights of victims and survivors of sex crimes, who must forever endure the trauma caused by horrific acts,” Attorney General Hunter said. “It also obstructs citizen access to public information on sex offenders in their communities and threatens public safety. Registry systems are one of the most cost-effective ways to protect the public while reintroducing sex offenders into society. Parents and victims have the right to know.
“My attorneys general colleagues in the 10th circuit and I believe the court was wrong to second-guess this policy and the judgement should be reversed.”
Attorney General Hunter explained in the brief, undoing the registry in one state compromises the integrity of the uniform registry system; creates opportunities for unregistered sex offenders to commit new crimes in adjacent jurisdictions; and jeopardizes the ability of states to obtain federal funding that Congress has conditioned upon the implementation of a sex offender registry system.
The brief also cites statistics as to why registries are important, stating estimates of sex offender recidivism rates range from 30 percent to as high as 80 percent. These are likely underestimates because around 85 percent of sex crimes go unreported.
The brief concludes by quoting a judge in a 2016 Wisconsin case who wrote, even assuming much lower recidivism rates, “readers of this opinion who are parents of young children should ask themselves whether they should worry that there are people in their community who have ‘only’ a 16 percent or an 8 percent probability of molesting young children.”
To read the brief, click here.