Court nixes South Carolina’s lifelong sex offender registry

U.S. Supreme Court

South Carolina’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a state law requiring sex offenders to register for life, without prior judicial review, is unconstitutional.

In a unanimous ruling, justices wrote that “requirement that sex offenders must register for life without any opportunity for judicial review violates due process because it is arbitrary and cannot be deemed rationally related to the General Assembly’s stated purpose of protecting the public from those with a high risk of re-offending.”

Justices set a 12-month timeline to implement the ruling, to give state lawmakers time to “correct the deficiency in the statute regarding judicial review.”

The case stems from a lawsuit originally brought by Dennis Powell, who was arrested in 2008 for criminal solicitation of a minor after authorities said he had graphic online conversations with someone he thought was a 12-year-old girl, but who was actually an undercover officer.

After pleading guilty, Powell was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender, which South Carolina’s statute mandates as a lifelong situation.

South Carolina’s sex offender statute requires biannual registration, in-person at a sheriff’s office, but provides for no periodic review by a judge, a situation the Supreme Court called “the most stringent in the country.”

“The lifetime inclusion of individuals who have a low risk of re-offending renders the registry over-inclusive and dilutes its utility by creating an ever-growing list of registrants that is less effective at protecting the public and meeting the needs of law enforcement,” justices wrote. “There is no evidence in the record that current statistics indicate all sex offenders generally pose a high risk of re-offending.”

The court ruled that Powell should be immediately removed from the state’s sex offender registry. Powell had also challenged a portion of the statute that permits the registry to be published online, which the court upheld.

Attorneys for both Powell and the State Law Enforcement Division did not immediately return text messages seeking comment on the ruling.

Related listings

  •  Ruling: Missed court date in Washington does not imply guilt

    Ruling: Missed court date in Washington does not imply guilt

    U.S. Supreme Court 05/29/2021

    The Washington state Supreme Court this month unanimously rejected the notion that a man who skipped his court date could be presented as evidence that he felt guilty about the original crime. State Supreme Court justices agreed that criminalizing a ...

  • Judges hear arguments over Census’ contentious privacy tool

    Judges hear arguments over Census’ contentious privacy tool

    U.S. Supreme Court 05/03/2021

    The fight over whether the U.S. Census Bureau can use a controversial statistical technique to keep people’s information private in the numbers used for drawing political districts on Monday was going before a judicial panel which must decide i...

  • Slain girl’s grandmother wants caseworkers deemed ‘reckless’

    Slain girl’s grandmother wants caseworkers deemed ‘reckless’

    U.S. Supreme Court 04/29/2021

    The grandmother of a 2-year-old girl who was beaten and starved to death wants to file a wrongful death lawsuit against three caseworkers who oversaw the girl’s care, and has taken her case to the Ohio Supreme Court.During oral arguments Wednes...

Grounds for Divorce in Ohio - Sylkatis Law, LLC

A divorce in Ohio is filed when there is typically “fault” by one of the parties and party not at “fault” seeks to end the marriage. A court in Ohio may grant a divorce for the following reasons:
• Willful absence of the adverse party for one year
• Adultery
• Extreme cruelty
• Fraudulent contract
• Any gross neglect of duty
• Habitual drunkenness
• Imprisonment in a correctional institution at the time of filing the complaint
• Procurement of a divorce outside this state by the other party

Additionally, there are two “no-fault” basis for which a court may grant a divorce:
• When the parties have, without interruption for one year, lived separate and apart without cohabitation
• Incompatibility, unless denied by either party

However, whether or not the the court grants the divorce for “fault” or not, in Ohio the party not at “fault” will not get a bigger slice of the marital property.