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Q) This law is still haunting me when it wasn't in effect in my sentencing
I'm sorry to bring you bad news, but a state's law requiring a person to register, even if a registry did not exist at the time of offense or sentencing, has been ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
What you're talking about is called an ex post facto law
. They are prohibited by the constitution, and are specifically prohibited by Article 1, section 9, clause 3 of the federal constitution.
An ex post facto law is a law that is passed and made retroactive. For example, say I get convicted today of a crime where the maximum punishment is a fine of $500.00. Tomorrow, the legislature changes the law and raises the punishment to a minimum sentence
of 30 days in jail. That new punishment (30 days in jail) cannot be applied to me. It's ex post facto.
While some states require violent
offenders (i.e. murder, robbery
, etc.) to register, registry issues are usually related to so called "sex offenders." Thus, the vast majority of the challenges to registry issues have been in cases where the accused was a "sex offender."
In Smith v. Doe
(2003), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the retroactive element of Alaska's sex offender registry law was permitted under the federal constitution as it deals with civil proceedings and post-conviction management and is not a "punishment" per se. (While I completely disagree with the court's ruling, it is the law.) Thus, the ex post facto clause of the constitution does not apply to a requirement that a person register even if the requirement to register did not exist at the time of sentencing.
Some states have found a retroactive application of their particular law to violate the particular state's constitution. Hawaii and Missouri
are two examples that come to mind. I do not know of any challenges in NJ.
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