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.

Read the remainder of the piece here at AL.com

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This topic contains 38 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Avatar Ed C 2 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #52031 Reply
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    admin

    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
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    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
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      WC_TN

      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
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        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
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          Ed C

          Oops, Alabama.

      • #52284 Reply
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        Mr. Jones

        The BIG BRIGHT RED lettering on Alabama drivers license reads: CRIMINAL SEX OFFENDER

        • #53684 Reply
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          Mr branded

          Just received letter saying hey you sex offender be ready to get new licence with a different designator. …! Does not matter if it is a j for JEW OR THE STAR OF DAVID ..ETC….ALL CAN SEE AND BE PREJUDICIAL. .. !!! WE ARE WZISTING TIME !! MONEY !!! WE MUST FORCE LEGISLATIVE AND CORE LAWS TO STOP THIS NOT SO MERRY GO ROUND AND ROUND WITH TYE SAME ISSUES AND DIFFEEENT TWISTS !!! WHAT GOOD IS ALL THIS IF WE ARE USED AS THE BUFFER FOR STOPPING SEX ABUSE AT OUR EXPENCE !!!

  • #52065 Reply
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    raj

    The entire registry is unconstitutional.

    • #52091 Reply
      Avatar
      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
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        Mike

        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.

        • #52633 Reply
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          Ed C

          Oops. I actually knew that. Thanks for the correction.

  • #52077 Reply
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    Mig

    NARSOL,
    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
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      Timothy

      Mig,
      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.

    • #52189 Reply
      Avatar
      TS

      @Mig

      See the comment from Ed C about this decision being persuasive which could help an TN challenge. At the same time, it needs to be a 1st Amend challenge too. Somewhere on this website, you can read about the OK DL challenge and learn some lessons there (which should rechallenge their DL registrant law with this decision along a 1st Amend avenue) – maybe the moderator could link that article here?

      • #52294 Reply
        Avatar
        Mig

        I am curious… would being forced by the state of Louisiana to send out postcards to every single address within a certain distance of my residence stating my “crime” also be considered compelled speech? Also, I am required to place a classified ad in my local newspaper that has my photo, address, and “crime”. Isn’t that compelled speech?
        How do I get the ball rolling on fighting this? What kind of lawyer do I need? Does the ACLU ever have any interest in this sort of thing? Please help!

        • #52679 Reply
          Avatar
          Timothy

          Mig,
          Compelled speech applies to individuals right to decline. Gov agents are obligated to do it following the law. Call any constitutional attorney, get a free or discounted initial look. Happens all the time. In Louisiana you suffer Napoleonic tradition in law which is different from the northern states in ways not for discussion here. Search up aid from groups like those of
          Sister Helen Prejean for a starters. Best of luck.

  • #52141 Reply
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    Timothy

    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.

  • #52245 Reply
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    Dustin

    Encouraging, but not certain if it will survive appeal.

    If it were me, I would register every public wifi in the city and spend a few hours a day creating as many dummy email addresses as I could with a goal of registering 500 a week, just to see how the registration office would react. Betting the registration office itself would then voice some opposition. I’m sure threats of arrest would be inherent, but how can they logically arrest someone for compliance with the law? (Not that logic has ever played a role in SO law creation and enforcement)

    • #52677 Reply
      Avatar
      Timothy

      Dustin,
      Good idea, my state offers a phone number to update! Just remember it MUST BE ACCURATE! Providing false information is a crime too. This “threading a needle” concept is worthy fodder for any judge or jury! It is darn near impossible to list all necessary information. Besides that the notion violates free speech by forcing answers under penalty of law. Here judge addresses ” carrying gov message” a different “form of speech right.”

  • #52240 Reply
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    Gralphr

    People get angry when you compare sex offender laws to the jews in nazi Germany, but other than the the gas chamber, they’re very similar. Forcing one to have identification marking them as a sex offender is like forcing someone to wear the star of David. Marking passports, etc. Should be illegal as well.

  • #52242 Reply
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    Jim

    Does this mean I can now go get an Alabama drivers license that is not branded with “criminal sex offender”?

    • #52573 Reply
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      Timothy

      Yes, once the law (statute) has changed.

    • #53183 Reply
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      Ed C

      There is only one way to answer that question. Go to the DMV with a copy of the decision, and demand a new non-branded license. If you are refused, record names, date, time, and get a written refusal if possible.

      According to a federal district court, this is a fundamental violation of your First Amendment rights. It will take time for the state to determine the “least restrictive means of advancing its interest”, and for the courts to agree. Meanwhile, you are suffering harm from the constitutional violation. It should be the state’s responsibility to repair the harm during any interim.

  • #52619 Reply
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    Jim

    Timothy, the state of AL is very deliberate in keeping RSO’s uninformed unless it is a change for the worse. Is there a website or some way I can determine when the statute changes.

    • #52678 Reply
      Avatar
      Timothy

      Jim,
      NARSOL WIKI\ALABAMA!

      Know the law! I strenuously suggest you get to know the codes well. Start with the current statutes on SOR, TRIAL PROCEDURES, CIVIL APPEALS, it’s all in the statutes, and chapters, and section. Make sure you know DOC or DPS codes, regulations.

      It your life!

  • #52769 Reply
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    Rich

    Is there any word if the Al A.G. is going to appeal? I read somewhere he has 30 days. Correct? What does this mean for the rest of us in Al?

  • #52850 Reply
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    Chef

    I spoke with the representing attorneys office a week ago. They said look out for a notice in the mail within 90 days for instructions and verification to change the Scarlet Lettering.

    • #52908 Reply
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      Jay

      Since the DL and internet monikers provisions of the law have been ruled unconstitutional, does that mean the law changes, or do we wait for the legislatures to amend it? I register in April (quarterly, in Alabama) and if I can get that crap off of my DL now, even if the ruling is appealed, I’d like to bring it up to the registering agancies (I register with PD and SD because I live in city limits). I noticed a comment stating to look for info in the mail within 90 days, but do we have to wait for them. The 2 officers that handle my registration are easy-going and as long as you do what you’re suposed to, they’re good. I want to move to Georgia (mainly for better medical care) soon. I remember when we had a separate ID for sex offenders and the DL was normal. When that law was passed, the purpose (according to the folks in Montgomery) that it was mainly for LE to identify SO’s. If I were a LEO, I’d rather know I just pulled over a murderer, or violent felon…not a sex offender!! Also, I found out that in georgia, if you are considered disbaled (draw SSI or SSDI) you can apply to be removed from the registry..you have to register, but you name/pic/etc is not allowed on the official webiste for sex offenders. I’ve been watching this ruling since it came out and glad I found this blog. Great work and great information here. Thanks to the admin(s). Good job. Jay

  • #53072 Reply
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    Rich

    I live in Shelby county which is not in the jurisdiction of this particular court. So what does that mean for me? I’m SOL? Or what?

    • #53187 Reply
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      Ed C

      I just looked closely at the decision. On the issue of license branding, the court held “[t]he State of Alabama’s branded-identification requirement, Ala. Code § 15-20A-18, is DECLARED unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiffs.” This “as applied” term means that the decision strictly applies only to those bringing the lawsuit. So, I have no idea where other Alabama registrants stand.

  • #53214 Reply
    Avatar
    Rich

    I saw the stipulation about the DL branding. However the internet requirement was declared facially unconstitutional. So does that mean it applies to all of us? As for the DL issue, how will it eventually apply to the rest of us? It seems something being declared unconstitutional really doesn’t mean anything.

  • #53542 Reply
    Avatar
    Jay

    I’ve been trying to keep up with this case, and the latest news is that the AG filed a post-judgement motion, and will decide whether to appeal the ruling after the court rules on the motion. Not really sure what it means or how long the Judge/court has to rule on the motion. Maybe they are asking the Judge to reconsider his ruling, and if he doesn’t, then they’ll wait until last day to file an appeal, thus keeping the current laws on the books. I don’t understand this, just guessing on my part. Here’s the story from 6 days ago:
    http://www.wsfa.com/2019/03/14/sex-offender-ruling-could-mean-less-information-police/

  • #53546 Reply
    Avatar
    Mike

    Hello i found some interesting information on the Doj they have a report stating recidivism rates are 3.5% and yet don’t say anything about but yet it is on there website for anyone to see & it’s on Smart.gov website almost identical report 3.5% I don’t understand why then is the registry is still up n running?

  • #53652 Reply
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    Rich

    Today I received a letter from the Al. Law Enforcement Agency stating that they are replacing “Criminal Sex Offender” with a code. It says to go the the dmv and have a new license made. There isn’t supposed to be any charge if you are outside the 180 day renewal period, which I am. I’m betting the code will be C.S.O. in bright red letters.

  • #53649 Reply
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    Jay

    I just received a letter from ALEA informing that they are replacing the big red CSO with a code, and I can go to the nearest drivers license office and get the new license. I just hope the “code” they mentioned isn’t a big S or something that covers the entire license.

  • #53706 Reply
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    ed Bo

    I got my new alabama CSO license today. It has a new code under you name, CV606.
    No more CSO on the license!! This is great news, hope the laws get even better for us soon. We suffered too much.

    • #53767 Reply
      Avatar
      mr branded

      Can anyone tell me how much time energy $$$$$$$$ were put into this Alabama lawsuit ….????
      ALL FOR WHAT OUT COME ???? JUST TO HAVE ANOTHER MARK !!!!
      WHAT ARE WE DOING ….WE NEED TO TELL THE COURTS IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE OR RIGHT OR MORAL OR FAIR, JUST, FOR THE PROSECUTION-STATE TO CHANGE LITTLE STUPID QUIMS !!!…BUT DO EXACTLY WHAT THE LAWSUIT SPELLS OUT TO BE UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND AGAINST CIVIL RIGHTS TO LIVE IN SOCIETY AS FREE AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE !!!!
      WE SHOULD BE STORMING THOSE COURTS AND STOPPING THIS CONTINUAL BOMBARDMENT OF OUR RIGHTS BEING VIOLATED !!!!!!!!
      THIS IS NOOOOOOOOO VICTORY, HELLLLP OR BETTER IN ANYWAY !!!!!
      NOW I HAVE TO WAIST TIME AND ENERGY TO GO SEE MORE PEOPLE WHO ARE ABLE TO GET IN MY PERSONAL/LIFE AND BUSINESS….EVERY PERSON WHO IS ABLE TO VIEW MY INFORMATION BURIES ME DEEPER IN TROUBLE LIVING IN SOCIETY, I.E. …..SALLY WORKS FOR DMV SALLY TALKS ABOUT HOW MR. SO AND SO IN THE SMALL TOWN IS KNOWN AND SHE SPREADS THE WORD ABOUT ME (WHICH IS REALLY HAPPENING)….SO NOW I HAVE MORE PEOPLE WHO CAN LEARN AND CAUSE ME MORE DAMAGE AND LOSS AND TROUBLE AND ON AND ON AND ON !!!!!!!!!
      THIS IS TOTALLY F@$#!% UP !!!!!!!!!
      ALL THIS CRAP IS GETTING NOOOOOO RESULTS !!!!!!!!!!
      WHY CANT PEOPLE DEMAND OTHER PEOPLE STOP THE HOUNDING AND BADGERING EX OFFENDERS IT IS NOT ALLOWED, TO BUILD-STRUCTURE LAWS TO BOX, OR CAGE PEOPLE IN A WEB OF NON STOP RULES, REGULATIONS AND LAWS THAT PENETRATE EX OFFENDERS LIVES AT EVERY LEVEL AND BURDEN THEM WITH MOUNTAINS OF UNREASONABLE, IRRATIONAL IMPOSITIONS !!!!! I TOLD PEOPLE ON THIS SITE AND OTHERS !!!!!!!!
      THE BULLY DOES NOT STOP UNTIL YOU HIT THEM IN THE NOGGIN AND THE BLOW HITS HOME !!!
      THE LAWS ARE ABLE TOO WEAZZELLL AND CONJURE WHATEVER THEY SEE…….. BUT IT IS NOT FOUNDED ON ACCEPTABLE STANDARDS OR MORALS, ETHICS AND VALUES, PRINCIPLES !!!!
      THE COURTS MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE

  • #53982 Reply
    Avatar
    Rich

    Went and got my cv606 license today. Can someone with legal knowledge explain how the internet address aspect of the decision will play out? It was declared facially unconstitutional. Will it apply to all of Alabama or just the counties covered by that specific court etc?

    • #54044 Reply
      Avatar
      Ed C

      I’m not a lawyer, nor do I even play one on TV. My comments on this should not be taken as gospel, but only as my impression of the law. If others wish to weigh in to correct me, or to expand on my comments. please do.

      This was a decision by a federal district court which declared a state statute–or parts at least–to be facially unconstitutional. That means that the court’s decision reaches beyond the specific plaintiffs to the text of the statute itself. Unfortunately according to the 11th Circuit, binding decisions regarding unconstitutionality of a state law can come only from the U.S. Supreme Court or the state’s supreme court. A U.S. district court decision does not bind the state’s courts, nor invalidate the law.

      That means the state could still prosecute you for a violation if you choose to ignore the law. The only upside to that is you would then have “standing” to appeal, potentially to the Alabama Supreme Court. That sucks as a way to gain standing. I suppose Alabama registrants could file a class action lawsuit in state court claiming the internet reporting section of the statute is unconstitutional. The federal court’s analysis will certainly provide ammunition, and outlines a persuasive template for the argument. Judges do prefer to side with decisions of other judges, so chances are good that you could win.

      The other way this could play out is if the state decides to appeal to the 11th Circuit. This could eventually carry the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. I wouldn’t count on that since that could result in a decision that would bind the state courts. For the moment, the state can ignore the decision.

  • #56979 Reply
    Avatar
    TS

    Can someone, e.g. NARSOL, et al, tell me and others why an injunction has not been thrown down on the new code of “cv606” on DLs and IDs since it is STILL GOVT COMPELLED SPEECH, but just in two letters and three numbers instead of explicitly written out?? It should not be accepted now just because the original verbiage is not there any longer and has been replaced by a code. This new code is still a violation of the decision just because the person at the checkout counter cannot see the words where the cv606 quickly reveals the person to LE, et al who know what it means.

    Now is not the time to lay down on this and let this fly as is, but continue to press the matter with the courts so a larger precedent is set in AL and other states who do this heinous marking of DLs and IDs. Any sort of marking related to a person who is registered is not acceptable regardless if it is a passport, DL, or ID!

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