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, including State v. Nelson, In re D.J.S., In re C.P., and State v. George Williams.
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.