Louisiana prepared to battle over “sex offender” driver’s licenses

By Adam Liptak . . . A Louisiana law required people convicted of sex crimes to use driver’s licenses on which the words “sex offender” would appear in big capital orange letters under their photographs.

That could make everyday encounters — with bank tellers, hotel clerks, supermarket cashiers, election officials, airport security officers and prospective employers — humiliating. Critics called the notation a modern-day scarlet letter. State officials said it kept the public safe from predators.

The Louisiana Supreme Court struck down the law last year, saying it violated the First Amendment. State officials have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, one that presents important questions about public policy and First Amendment doctrine.

Sex offenders are subject to countless restrictions under state and federal laws, notably by having to list their addresses on public registries available on the internet. In a petition seeking Supreme Court review, state officials said that was not enough and that the special IDs provided an extra measure of security.

“Under the Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision, the public will lack an essential tool for identifying sex offenders in the community,” the state’s petition said. “Online registries are insufficient to protect the state’s interests because people can easily give a false name and deny their status. During storms and other emergencies, power outages and interrupted internet connections may make it impossible to check the online registry.”

The petition gave examples of why state ID cards should bear the notation, some more compelling than others. “People trick-or-treating on Halloween may need a quick way to verify that their children are safe from predators,” the brief said, though asking to see ID before accepting candy is not commonplace.

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4 Thoughts to “Louisiana prepared to battle over “sex offender” driver’s licenses”

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  1. Mig

    I am from Louisiana and have been following this because it affects me.
    Here is a quick timeline of what has happened, so far…
    October 2019 – district court in Louisiana rules it is unconstitutional.
    October 2020 – Louisiana supreme court affirms that it is indeed unconstitutional.
    December 2020 – Louisiana AG requests an emergency stay with SCOTUS, and SCOTUS denies the emergency stay.
    May 10, 2021 – A bill (HB56) is submitted in the Louisiana legislature which would put a code on SO driver’s licenses. Bill dies in committee after 3 hours of debate when several legislators agree to the unconstitutionality of the bill, and these lawmakers agree with court’s decision.
    May 11 2021 – Louisiana AG submits to SCOTUS a request to overturn the district court & Louisiana supreme courts’ rulings.

    So, that is where we are now. Basically, the Louisiana AG is 0-4 when it comes to his attempt to get SEX OFFENDER back on registered citizen’s driver’s license.
    Hopefully, SCOTUS will do the right thing.

    1. WC_TN

      If the SCOTUS has already denied an emergency stay against the LA Supreme Court ruling against the marking, I don’t see how this AG thinks he’ll have a chance at SCOTUS granting cert. If SCOTUS wouldn’t even step in to halt the courts’ rulings, then why would they now turn around and hear the case? If SCOTUS didn’t see any need for them to stay the ruling, why would they even bother with granting the A.G.’s certiorari petition? It seems the state has already tilted at this particular windmill and lost. I suppose the A.G. has to give the superficial appearance of “doing something”. We know how the political games go.

    2. WC_TN

      One more thought here, Mig: By filing this “Hail Mary” petition to SCOTUS the state can say, “We did all we could, but the courts shot us down at every turn.” This may be about politicians being able to walk away with clean hands.

  2. TS

    Is @NARSOL, et al going to provide a reply to the Amici brief submitted by the states shown on the SCOTUS website of this writ?