Hope v. Commissioner, No. 22-2150 (7th Cir. 2023)
Nature of Case: Individuals subject to sex offense registration requirements in other jurisdictions, who committed sex offenses either before the Indiana Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) was enacted or before it was amended to cover their specific offense, brought action against the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction, alleging in part that SORA’s “other-jurisdiction” provision requiring them to register under SORA because they had a duty to register in another jurisdiction violated the Equal Protection Clause.
By its terms, SORA applies to individuals who committed sex crimes before its enactment in 1994. But the Indiana Supreme Court has limited SORA’s retroactive application under the state constitution’s Ex Post Facto Clause. As a result, Indiana ordinarily cannot require pre-SORA offenders to register because doing so would be punitive and strip such individuals of their right to fair notice. The Plaintiffs in this case, however, each have a registration obligation in another jurisdiction because they either moved to Indiana from another state or left Indiana for some period before returning.
Plaintiffs contend that applying a registration requirement to them when similarly situated individuals without registration requirements in other jurisdictions are not subject to such requirements violates Equal Protection.
The District Court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs, and defendants appealed. On rehearing en banc, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, ruling that rational basis review, and not strict scrutiny, applied to the equal protection claim. On remand, the District Court, again granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs on their equal protection claim. Defendants appealed.
Holding: The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the holding of the district court, holding that the other-jurisdiction provision was rationally related to Indiana’s legitimate interest in registering as many individuals who have been convicted of sex offenses as the state constitution permits.