Issue: Retroactive Laws


sex-offender-retroactive-laws_3.jpgUSA FAIR strongly opposes ex post facto additional punishments being imposed upon former sex offenders under the guise of “civil law” and we believe that these after-the-fact sanctions, sometimes imposed years or decades after registrants completed serving their sentence, are unconstitutional.

We acknowledge the U.S. Supreme Court precedent upholding the registry itself as being an instrument of civil law and thus not subject to the ex post facto protections granted under criminal law.  However, the sex offender registry that existed at the time of that ruling is not the same registry that exists today.  Since that decision in 2003, numerous additional sanctions have been imposed upon registrants that add demonstrable new punitive impacts to registration.  The most damaging of these new punitive measures, with wide-ranging consequences, has been restrictions on residency and places of employment.

In upholding Alaska’s version of the registry, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that although a sex offender registry might create a stigma to offenders, it was not additional punishment because although former offenders had to register, they are still “free to move where they wish” and “to live and work as other citizens, with no supervision.”

Today, residency and place of employment restrictions have led to substantial new occupational and housing disadvantages, as registrants have been banned from entire municipalities and whole regions of states.  These restraints now imposed by the registry often exceed the restraints imposed on offenders while serving their sentence under community supervision by probation and parole departments.  As a result, these new sanctions impose restraints and limitations that go to the core of punishment and cannot be applied retroactively.

USA FAIR strongly believes that this disturbing and growing body in the law of ex post facto exceptions for sex offenders sets a dangerous precedent in American jurisprudence that could become a slippery slope toward impacting other offender groups.  The growth of the punitive impacts of the registry through incremental and retroactive legislation warrants aggressive legal challenges by the ACLU and all social justice organizations that are committed to fundamental civil liberties.  

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