March 5, 2013

Maine's sex-offender registry law upheld

The 1999 law is 'non-punitive' and protects the public, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court rules.

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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The 1999 revision also separated the registration process from sentencing, removed the possibility for waiving registration after five years if offenders met certain criteria for good behavior and removed the power previously held by sentencing judges to opt against requiring registration all together.

The publicly available Internet database was created in 2003. In 2005, the law was expanded again to apply to offenders convicted after 1982.

The Legislature created an exception in 2009.

That law allowed people sentenced for sexual crimes between Jan. 1, 1982 and June 30, 1992 to keep their names from appearing on the list if their conviction at the time would have allowed for their identities to be expunged from the registry after they completed their 10 years. The exception was later expanded to include convictions between 1982 and Sept. 18, 2009.

The John Does who took their suit to the state's highest court had been convicted within the allowable window of time but did not qualify to be removed from the registry. Some had been convicted of multiple counts of sexual offenses, which the Legislature designated as a negating factor in granting the exception.

The split ruling Tuesday is not likely to end the long-running debate over the Maine sex-offender list.

While the majority of justices agreed that the purpose of the law is public safety, the dissenting justices diverged sharply and pointed to scholarly criticism of the registry system as an ineffective tool for deterrence.

Silver wrote in the dissent that the stigma associated with sex offenders' information being published on the Internet demonstrates its punitive effects.

"The public does not have access to the pictures, home addresses and work places of those convicted of robbery, arson, embezzlement or any other crime," he wrote.

Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be contacted at: 791-6303 or at

mbyrne@mainetoday.com

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