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Alabama court upholds first amendment rights for registered sexual offenders

By Anna Beahm . . . A federal district judge has ruled parts of Alabama’s sex offender registration and notification laws are unconstitutional under the First Amendment, court records show.

The order issued on Monday referenced a lawsuit filed in federal court in 2015 that claims Alabama’s sex offender laws, known as the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act are debilitating, overbroad and too vague to be followed completely.

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins ruled part of Alabama’s internet reporting requirements and branded identification requirements are unconstitutional.

The specific internet reporting requirements referenced include requirements for sex offenders to provide law enforcement with a list of any and all internet providers used and a list of any email addresses or instant message address or identifiers used, including any designations or monikers used for self-identification in internet communication or postings other than those used exclusively in a lawful commercial transaction. He also called the internet reporting requirements “overbroad.”

Watkins’ ruling also declared unconstitutional the state’s requirement for sex offenders to have a valid driver’s license or other identification card that identifies the person as a sex offender.

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Timothy 1 day, 2 hours ago.

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  • #52031 Reply


    By Anna Beahm . . . A federal district judge has ruled parts of Alabama’s sex offender registration and notification laws are unconstitutional under t
    [See the full post at: Alabama court upholds first amendment rights for registered sexual offenders]

  • #52049 Reply

    Retta Carl

    Its about time someone with a brain and some common sense and in a position of authority starts making sure our US laws are followed for everyone!

    • #52063 Reply


      I wonder if the section of the ruling that requires offenders to have a branded driver’s license or state ID that brands them a sex offender can be used to challenge that requirement in Tennessee? We have to have a restriction Code 88 on our license. Our license does not literally have a red “SEX OFFENDER” stamp on it, but the restriction code does point out to L.E. that we’re registered citizens.

      • #52078 Reply

        Ed C

        I haven’t yet read the decision, but the answer to your question is “yes” and “no”. If the judge did indeed declare license branding as unconstitutional, that can be referenced in a Tennessee lawsuit. Since the decision is only at the district level, and not even in your circuit (Georgia 11th and Tennessee 6th), it does not constitute binding precedent.

        The good news is that the decision can be considered “persuasive” by any court. The judiciary is supposed to attempt to have some consistency in its decisions. Judges like anybody else don’t like to stick their necks out by breaking new legal ground, particularly regarding touchy subjects. Once it has been done by another judge, they are more comfortable with radical decisions. I’d say go for it.

        • #52086 Reply

          Ed C

          Oops, Alabama.

  • #52065 Reply


    The entire registry is unconstitutional.

    • #52091 Reply

      Ed C

      You may be right, raj. But until the Supreme Court says otherwise, registries are constitutional.

      We are seeing a number of hopeful signs. There is this Alabama decision, that great amicus brief from the Michigan Attorney General, and the Millard decision out of Colorado, etc. Collectively, we need to keep hammering in the courts while we do what we can to educate the public.

      Eventually, an appeal will reach the Supreme Court. Circumstances have changed dramatically since Justice Stevens’ “frightening and high” comment in 2002. All credible research shows that SO’s have an extremely low recidivism rate, and that the registry does nothing to promote public safety. Thanks to dedicated organizations like NARSOL, and individuals with the courage to confront the government in the courts, steady (but too slow) progress is being made.

      • #52120 Reply


        It always amazes me how many people get this wrong…..It was Justice Kennedy that quoted the phrase “frightening and high” from a magazine. Justice Kennedy is now retired.

  • #52077 Reply


    What is the trickle-down of this ruling to other states? I am in Louisiana and have “SEX OFFENDER” in red letters across my driver’s license & a separate state ID (Registered citizens are required to have 2 such IDs). Also, Louisiana requires all email, online IDs, etc. (and passwords) to be provided to law enforcement. Finally, Louisiana requires registered citizens to post on any social media their crimes on the profile page. Again, how might this Alabama ruling affect other states?

    • #52118 Reply


      No doubt Louisiana law has evolved from unique ancestry. Many aspects of Napoleonic process differ from those of us in the north of the country. What I know of it comes mostly from reading the works of Sister Prejean.

  • #52141 Reply


    Like I explained to the Jury of 12 The SOR form is an agent in my mail box. Wanting to look over my shoulder for information on my computer.

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