Criminal Justice on the Docket

In re CP (amicus) – Adam Walsh Act (SB 10) Sex Offender Registration and Notification Case

This case falls into the legal category of: ,

Case Dates:
Wednesday, 29 September, 2010 - Tuesday, 3 April, 2012

Ohio’s old system of sex offender classification, determining whether or not and how often convicted sex offenders must report to local law enforcement, was far from perfect but did rely in large part on how likely an offender was to re-offend. Such laws were challenged in the past because of their punitive nature and their retroactivity. However, those challenges have been largely unsuccessful. Ohio adopted a state version of the federal Adam Walsh Act at the urging of the federal government. The new law scrapped Ohio’s old classification system (known as Megan’s Law) and replaced it with a stricter system that does not take into account offenders’ likelihood to re-offend and applies even to offenders whose reporting requirements ended before passage of the new law. We are litigating a number of cases arising under the Adam Walsh Act.

The Ohio Supreme Court accepted several test cases on the Adam Walsh Act. Details on these cases can be found below.

In June 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in State v. Bodyke that individuals who were classified by a court under the old Megan’s Law could not be reclassified under the new Adam Walsh Act. However, the Court’s decision in Bodyke still leaves many unanswered questions that are being pursued in other test cases. Unfortunately, this leaves many cases in limbo.

On July 13, 2011 the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in State v. Williams that the new registration requirements of the Ohio Adam Walsh Act are punitive because they impose additional burdens or obligations on individuals who committed an offense before the passage of the law, thus violating the Ohio Constitution’s Retroactivity Clause that prohibits imposing greater punishment after the fact. This was a huge victory, because prior sex offender registration and notification laws, including Megan’s Law, had been upheld by the Court as not being punitive. The Williams decision was 5-2.

Legal Theory:

This case is parallel to In re D.J.S., in which we are also amicus. Both cases question the constitutionality of applying the Adam Walsh Act to juveniles. In re D.J.S. involved retroactive application (2004 offense), and In re CP involves prospective application (2009 offense).

CP entered an admission to the charges and was adjudicated delinquent. The court ordered that CP be committed to the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS), and the court entered a suspended prison term to the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections that was stayed pending successful completion at DYS. The court also informed CP of his duties and obligations as a Tier III juvenile offender registrant and a public registry-qualified juvenile offender registrant under Adam Walsh (meaning that his photo and other information are on the AG’s internet registry of sex offenders, even though his case remained in juvenile court). CP appealed the constitutionality of Adam Walsh, but the court of appeals ruled against him.


The Ohio Supreme Court accepted the appeal July 21, 2010. CP filed his merit brief Sept. 30, 2010. The National Juvenile Defender Center filed an amicus brief in support of CP on Sept. 29, 2010, that was joined by us and the Children’s Law Center, arguing that the application of Adam Walsh to juveniles is unconstitutional and inappropriate. The state’s merit brief was
filed Nov. 1, 2010, and the Ohio Attorney General filed an amicus in support of the state on Oct. 29, 2010. The Court heard oral argument February 16, 2011. On April 3, 2012 the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 5-2 (Cupp and O’Donnell dissenting) that lifetime sex offender registration for juveniles was unconstitutional because it constituted cruel and unusual punishment and
remanded the case to the trial court, Athens County Court of Appeals, for further proceedings. The trial court waived costs on July 20, 2012 but has not scheduled a hearing date or made a ruling.