Sunday, June 6, 2010

Court decision impacts sex offenders registry

By MARY ANN GREIER, Staff Writer
POSTED: June 6, 2010

LISBON - The number of registered sex offenders in Columbiana County will decrease now that an Ohio Supreme Court decision has reversed increased reporting requirements for offenders convicted before 2008.
"Many people will no longer have a reporting requirement as a result of this ruling," county assistant Prosecutor Tim McNicol said Friday.
McNicol handles most of the sex case prosecutions in Common Pleas Court and makes recommendations for sex offender classifications, with the judges deciding the classifications based on the charges in each case.
The state legislature made the reporting rules more stringent when it enacted the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, not just for those offenders convicted after Jan. 1, 2008, but also for those who had already been sentenced and classified by judges under the old Megan's Law.
The result was a deluge of lawsuits filed by sex offenders in counties across the state, including more than 60 in Columbiana County, who claimed their rights were violated because the rules were changed for them after they had already been sentenced.
McNicol noted that in some cases, offenders went from a 10-year reporting requirement to a lifetime requirement, meaning they had to report their address to the Sheriff's Office of the county where they lived every 90 days for the rest of their lives.
In one particular case in the county, an offender whose reporting requirement was set to expire in April 2008 was told he had to report for the rest of his life. He had pled guilty to attempted corruption of a minor in 1997 and had a 10-year reporting requirement.
McNicol said the Ohio Supreme Court found that the reclassification of those already sentenced offenders was a violation of the constitution, specifically the separation of powers doctrine. The way the legislature enacted the new rules changed prior rulings of courts and that's not permitted.
"It was the legislature overstepping its bounds," he said.
The offenders affected received reclassification letters from the Ohio Attorney General's office and they'll receive letters again, this time returning them to their original classifications. For many, that will mean an end to the reporting requirements.
McNicol said he was told the number represents about 26,000 offenders in Ohio. In the county, he said he checked with the deputy who handles sex offender registrations and learned about 75 percent of the 170 registered sex offenders in the county will be affected in some way.
"I don't think that this ruling will necessarily diminish the effectiveness of the registration law," he said. "Those with the most serious risk will remain as lifetime registrations."
Those offenders who should have been registering for life already were and that won't change.
He also stressed that the ruling isn't going to affect anyone who was convicted and classified after Jan. 1, 2008. They'll still be subject to the new rules, which lengthened reporting requirements for some offenses and placed some offenses in the more serious category of lifetime registration.
Besides the lifetime registration and community notification, which is Tier III, the classifications include: Tier I, register once a year for 15 years (previously it was 10 years); and Tier II, register twice a year, every 180 days, for 25 years (previously it was once a year for 20 years).
To view the list of registered sex offenders in the county, go to the Sheriff's Office Web site at
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at

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