Saturday, July 24, 2004

Sex offenders won't register

Appeals court ruling nullifies part of Megan's law

By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer

Convicted felons designated as sexually oriented offenders in Hamilton County courts will no longer be required to register their addresses with the sheriff's office in the county where they live.

That determination came Friday in a ruling by the Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals.

Under Ohio law, there are three legal designations of sexual offender. The worst is sexual predator - a person considered the most likely to commit another sex crime. The middle classification is habitual sexual offender. The third and lowest classification is sexually oriented offender. Everyone convicted of any sex offense is automatically classified a sexually oriented offender.

The state requires all sex offenders to register their addresses. And depending on their classification, police are required to notify schools, day-care centers and neighbors when such an offender moves.

But the court of appeals ruled that when a judge designates a person a sexually oriented offender, it means the offender is not likely to commit another sex crime.

So, the court said, requiring sexually oriented offenders to register their addresses bears no connection to the state's interest, which is to prevent future sex offenses.

The decision was written by Appeals Judge Ralph Winkler. Judges Rupert A. Doan and Mark Painter concurred.

The ruling overturns part of Megan's law, which requires sex offenders to register when they move into a new community.

In Ohio, sexual predators must register with authorities where they live for life. A habitual sex offender must register with authorities for 20 years, and a sexually oriented offender for 10 years.

Sheriff's offices in each Ohio county keep public lists of offenders until their registering time expires, which allows county residents to search by name, address or ZIP code to see if sexual offenders live in their neighborhood.

The appellate court's ruling specifically relates to the case of Marc Anthony, a 35-year-old Newark man convicted in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in 2003 on two counts of trying to contact a 14-year-old over the Internet for sex during an undercover police sting.

Common Pleas Judge Fred Nelson sentenced Anthony to 40 days in jail and five years' probation, and designated Anthony a sexually oriented offender.

Anthony appealed, arguing that forcing him to register as a sexual oriented offender violated his constitutional rights.

The court agreed. It upheld Anthony's conviction and designation as a sexually oriented offender. But, the court said Anthony does not have to register his address with the sheriff's office.

The ruling does not affect anyone previously ordered to register.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen was out of town and had not read the decision Friday, but when reached by phone, he said his office would review the ruling.

"There is a good chance we'll appeal this to the Ohio Supreme Court," Allen said. "It sends a bad message."



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