Judge Orders Removal of 8 Men From Sex Offender Registry to End Retroactive Punishment

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ordered the removal of eight men from the sex offender registry to end their retroactive punishments.

"Tennessee officials continue to flout the Constitution's guarantees," Trauger wrote in her ruling Friday. "The federal district courts of this state have repeatedly concluded that the same analysis applies ... to Tennessee's own, very similar scheme and policies. Tennessee officials have continued to impose the state's repeatedly-held-to-be-unlawful policy on other, similarly situated individuals" despite rulings, she said.

Governments are prohibited from giving more punishment for a crime that was committed previously under the Ex Post Facto of the U.S. Constitution clause, according to The Associated Press. A judge must decide that the law being implemented retroactively is penal to find a clause violation. Trauger said the violation doesn't depend on the plaintiffs' hardship, but rather the punitive nature of the law.

Trauger also cited an April ruling where another federal judge in the Middle District of Tennessee ruled that two men should be removed from the sex offender registry. The judge determined enforcing laws created after the committed crimes were unconstitutional.

Trauger also mentioned that in 2016, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against retroactive implementation of a sex offender law in Michigan.

The eight individuals in question referred to as John Does #1-8 in court documents, should stay on the registry to protect public safety and avert any potential future crimes, state lawyers argued. However, Trauger wrote there was no evidence provided by the state to show the plaintiffs were a threat.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Aleta Trauger, Sex Offender Registry, Retroactive Punishment
The eight individuals U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ordered to be removed from the sex offender registry should stay on the registry to protect public safety and avert any potential future crimes, state lawyers argued. In this photo, there is a courtroom in the Joel Solomon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

John Doe # 1 pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault of his girlfriend in Hawaii in 1994, according to court filings. Since completing probation, he has not been convicted of another crime but rather "led a productive, law-abiding life," according to the complaint. He is married, has children, and owns and operates a successful business.

Because he is subject to Tennessee's sex offender laws, he is required to report in-person to law enforcement within 48 hours of changing his address, job, or email address, opening a Facebook account, or buying a vehicle, among other things. Failure to report can result in criminal charges.

And even though his offense did not involve a child, he is restricted from being around children, according to the complaint. He cannot attend events at his children's school. When one of his children was injured at school, and he rushed to see the child, school personnel called law enforcement. He cannot take his children to parks or playgrounds and does not allow them to invite friends to the house for fear of violating the restrictions.

Trauger did not immediately order a ninth plaintiff, who does not currently live in Tennessee, to be removed from the state's sex offender registry and restrictions because the state has filed a motion to dismiss his claims that is still pending.