A Maryland man became the first to mount a success appeal to get his name removed from the sex offender registry. Last month, the appellant, filing as John Doe, argued that his inclusion on the sex offender's list was unconstitutional because the registry did not exist until 1995, 12 years after he committed his crimes in 1983. The court agreed that this was retroactive punishment that is not allowed under state law, and Doe's name and arrest photo were removed from the registry. As a result of this ruling, as many as 2,000 of the 8,000 names on the state registry could now be eligible for possible removal.
The Attorney General has already filed to appeal the ruling. Nevertheless, a trickle of appeals has been filed as well, asking for a remedy similar to Doe's. Reportedly, these will likely be judged on their merits on a case-by case basis. Some successful appellants may be able to return to anonymity, while others may gain a loosening of their mandatory restrictions.
The decision is controversial. Baltimore County State's Attorney, who has been lobbying to make sex offender laws more restrictive, responded to the court's ruling by saying, "I think if there's a place to put up a fight, it's here. We're talking about convicted sex offenders, child abusers and rapists." Others feel that sex offender registration unfairly presents the names of former offenders as if their past actions are present-day and ongoing.
Sex offender laws and registration requirements impose onerous restrictions on an individual that can last for the rest of their life. For those registrants whose convictions precede 1995, there has never been a better time to have a lawyer file an appeal on constitutional grounds.
Source: Fox Baltimore, "Thousands of Maryland Sex Offenders May be Removed From Registry ", August 02, 2013