Friday, April 17, 2009

Synopsis of 'State v. Smith'

(2008AP1011-CR) See Supreme Court accepts three new cases
In this case, the Supreme Court is asked to review the constitutionality of requiring a person convicted of a crime with no sexual component to register as a sex offender.

Some background: In 2001, James W. Smith was convicted of false imprisonment of a minor victim as party to a crime. There is no dispute that the crime did not have any sexual component. The record indicates that Smith and other individuals falsely imprisoned the victim and threatened him with a gun in a dispute over a drug debt.

Smith pleaded no contest to false imprisonment and theft, and he was required under Wis. Stat. §301.45 to register as a sex offender.

In 2005, Smith was charged with failing to provide an annual update and respond to written requests from the state Department of Corrections. Smith moved to dismiss the charges, claiming §301.45 is unconstitutional because it is overbroad, denied equal protection, and violated substantive due process because it lacked a rational basis when applied to his circumstances.

Smith’s motion was denied, and he pled guilty. He was sentenced to one year initial confinement and one year extended supervision. Smith appealed, and the Court of Appeals [2009 WI App 16] affirmed.

The Court of Appeals said due process protects against government action that either shocks the conscience or interferes with rights implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. The Court of Appeals said Smith only raised an “as applied,” and not facial challenge to the statute. He had the burden of showing beyond a reasonable doubt that §301.45 as applied to him was unconstitutional and Smith did not meet that burden, the Court of Appeals concluded.

Smith raises questions of due process and equal protection. He argues being labeled a sex offender damages his reputation and restricts his right to privacy, his choice of residency, and employment. He notes that many local jurisdictions are creating or have already created restrictions on a person’s ability to reside in certain locations if they are registered as a sex offender.

The state says Smith has not identified a fundamental liberty interest being infringed upon. The Court of Appeals correctly recognized that including false imprisonment of a minor as a sex offender furthers the goal of protecting children from violence, the state contends. In addition, the state argues a sex offense is defined under §301.45 to include the crime of false imprisonment of a minor.

A decision by the Supreme Court could clarify the law in this area.

From Brown County.