Court of Appeals Ruling on Sex Offender Registry - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Court of Appeals Ruling on Sex Offender Registry

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP/WBOC) - Sex offenders in Maryland can't be forced to register in the state's sex offender registry if they committed their crimes before the database was created in 1995.

The Maryland Court of Appeals noted that's the case even though there are "federal obligations" to register them. The court says the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act includes exemptions for registrations that would be contrary to state law.

Last year, the court found that retroactive application of the state's registry rules violated the state constitution.

"The state cannot legally accept a sex offender's involuntary registration when that individual's registration is unconstitutional under Maryland law," Judge Clayton Greene Jr., wrote Monday for the majority.

The ruling upholds the right of circuit court judges to order names removed from the state registry that provides information to several federal databases.

It's unclear how many people will be affected by the court's decision. There are more than 8,700 people currently registered, according to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. In May during oral arguments before the court, lawyers for the state said 1,500 people were registered for offenses that took places before October 1995, when the database was created.

Officials with the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services deferred comment to the attorney general's office. David Paulson, a spokesman for the attorney general, said the agency is studying the decision.

Lisae Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, called the ruling "disappointing but not surprising." Jordan said it would be challenging for the state to establish "reasonable alternative procedures" Greene recommended.

She said one way would be to create a non-public registry accessible only to law enforcement or people who work with children.

"That's cold comfort to parents of a child who want to know if a child sex offender is next door," Jordan said.

 Click here to view the Maryland Sex Offender Registry.
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