By Robert Nott . . . The question of whether sex offenders must register in New Mexico for crimes they committed in other states is making its way through the courts again.
Eight plaintiffs, each listed as “John Doe,” have filed a petition in U.S. District Court in New Mexico, alleging the state Department of Public Safety and five county sheriffs failed to provide them due process in determining whether their out-of-state offense is “equivalent” to a New Mexico crime that would require them to register in this state.
Albuquerque-based lawyers Susan Burgess-Farrell and Barrett G. Porter, and the nonprofit Liberty and Justice Coalition, filed the lawsuit in late October on behalf of the “John Does” who already have been required to register as sex offenders in New Mexico.
The petition says the sheriffs and the Department of Public Safety, which is responsible for operating and maintaining New Mexico’s sex offender registry, failed to set up a procedural due process to properly review their cases in a timely manner.
“No notice,” the petition says. “No right to discover the evidence relied upon. No hearing in which to present evidence. No neutral decision maker. No mechanism for appealing the decision.”
Several of the plaintiffs have been waiting for a determination on a “translation” list for “several years,” the court document says. Meanwhile, they risk loss of job and housing opportunities, damage to their reputation and must report to the local sheriff every 90 days, according to the petition. Offenders are also subject to online publication of their crimes.
Under New Mexico law, a person convicted of any of 12 sex offenses or who is convicted of an “equivalent” offense must register with the sheriff of the county in which the offender lives. Failing to register is a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico, which can lead to an 18-month prison sentence.
Ashley Reymore-Cloud, a lawyer for the nonprofit Liberty and Justice Coalition, said this lawsuit is not the first to address state issues with “translation of equivalent crimes” for out-of-state sex offenders.