Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (U.S. 2003)
Nature of Case: Plaintiffs had been convicted of sexual offenses prior to Alaska’s passage of their sex offense registry. Subsequent to the law’s passage, they were required to register and brought suit alleging that their required registration was punitive and therefore violated the Ex Post Facto clause. The trial court found that ASORNA was intended by the legislature to be non punitive, and that its effects were non punitive. Plaintiffs appealed and the Ninth Circuit reversed, finding that the civil intention notwithstanding, the effects of ASORNA were so punitive in effect so as to constitute punishment and therefore their retrospective application violated the Ex Post Facto clause. State defendants then sought review from the United States Supreme Court.
Holding: United States Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit, finding that both the legislature intended ASORNA to be non-punitive, and that it was non-punitive in effect. The Court analyzed the seven Mendoza-Martinez factors (whether a regulatory scheme has been regarded in history and traditions as punishment; whether it imposes an affirmative disability or restraint; whether it promotes the traditional aims of punishment; whether it has a rational connection to a non punitive purposes or whether it is excessive with respect to that purpose; and whether the regulation comes into play on a finding of scienter; and whether the behavior is already a crime)The Court concluded based on these factors that ASORNA is not punitive and therefore its retroactive application does not violate the Ex Post Facto clause. The Court further based this conclusion on the, based on its assertion that “the risk of recidivism posed by sex offenders is ‘frightening and high’”, that the Act bears a “rational connection to a non punitive purpose.”