State has until Friday to decide whether to appeal

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Alaska's top attorneys are analyzing a federal appeals court ruling that said the state's sex offender registry law is too harsh.

The state has until Friday to decide whether to appeal last week's ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Alaska's law requires sex offenders to register their whereabouts four times a year for life. The ruling threw out the registration requirement for nearly two thirds of Alaska sex offenders.

A three-judge panel found that the burden is too harsh for sex offenders who were convicted before the Alaska Legislature passed the law in 1994. The court rejected a provision requiring sex offenders convicted between 1984 and 1994 to register, which includes about 1,400 of 2,200 people on the list.

The law was modeled after New Jersey's pioneering ''Megan's Law.'' It lets the public track whether a neighbor is a known sex offender.

Alaska's law requires lesser sex offenders to register annually for 15 years after their conviction and more serious offenders to register every three months until they die.

All 50 states have some version of a sex offenders law.

The ruling did not immediately affect the list of convicted sex offenders posted on the Internet by the Alaska Department of Public Safety. Assistant Attorney General Eric Johnson said even if the state appeals the ruling, the list could stay intact for awhile.

Johnson said it appears an injunction would apply only to the two convicted sex offenders who challenged the state law -- not to the 1,400 other people on the list.

The appeals court sent the case back to a lower court, which could issue an injunction prohibiting the state from posting names of sex offenders convicted before 1994.

If the state lost the case on appeal, it then would decide whether to apply the federal court ruling to all sex offenders convicted between 1984 and 1994. Johnson speculated the state probably at that point would remove all 1,400 names.

Advocates for abused women and children were disappointed with the ruling, which essentially concluded the plaintiffs were wrongly subjected to additional punishment after they were convicted.

''We didn't believe that it was punitive,'' said Lauree Hugonin, executive director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Juneau.

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