The State had previously ruled that the retroactive application of SORNA was punitive and that someone who was previously not required to register or who had completed their “term” of registration must be removed.Doe v. Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services, 430 Md. 535, 62 A.3d 123 (2013)
In addition to the affirmation of the prior ruling, the Appeals court clarified that the ruling also applies to the Federal SORNA as well.
Here are some highlights from the appeals court decision:
- “the retroactive application of the provisions we deemed punitive violated the ex post factoprohibition contained in Article 17of the Maryland Declaration of Rights”.
“[p]ursuant to our determination that [Doe] may not be compelled to register, his name and likeness shall be removed from the Maryland Sex Offender Registry.”
- “This Court, the highest court of the State of Maryland, has declared that a portion of Maryland’s legislation implementing SORNA’s “minimum national standards” violates the Maryland Declaration of Rights.”
“We are not the only state appellate court to have declared the retroactive or retrospective application of sex offender registration laws to be in violation of the state’s constitution. See Starkey v. Oklahoma Dep’t of Corr.,305 P.3d 1004 (Okla. 2013) (holdingthat the retroactive application of state’s sex offender registration law violated ex post facto prohibition in state constitution); State v. Williams, 952 N.E.2d 1108, 1113 (Ohio 2011); Wallace v. State, 905 N.E.2d 371 (Ind. 2009) (same); State v. Letalien, 985 A.2d 4 (Me.2009) (same); Doe v. State, 189 P.3d 999 (Alaska 2008) (same); Doe v. Phillips, 194 S.W.3d 833 (Mo. 2006) (holding that Missouri’s sex offender registration law violated the state constitutional ban on laws retrospective in operation).”
- “[S]o long as Appellees are in Maryland, they cannot be required to register as sex offenders in Maryland, notwithstanding the registration requirements imposed directly on individualsby SORNA.”
This Appeals Court decision can still be brought before the State Supreme Court, but in light of this second round victory, it is unlikely to yield a different outcome.
Also notable is the Court’s reference to other State’s decisions. Although they do not serve as precedence in this case, they demonstrate (a) the influential impact other states have and (b) a trend in state courts finding the retroactive application of enhanced sex offender registration requirements unconstitutional.