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Smith v Doe

3-5-2003 Alaska:

Smith v. Doe (Oral Argument) (U.S. Supreme Court)

Under the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act (Act), any sex offender or child kidnaper incarcerated in the State must register with the Department of Corrections within 30 days before his release, providing his name, address, and other specified information. If the individual is at liberty, he must register with local law enforcement authorities within a working day of his conviction or of entering the State. If he was convicted of a single, nonaggravated sex crime, the offender must provide annual verification of the submitted information for 15 years.

If he was convicted of an aggravated sex offense or of two or more sex offenses, he must register for life and verify the information quarterly. The offender’s information is forwarded to the Department of Public Safety, which maintains a central registry of sex offenders. Some of the data, such as fingerprints, driver’s license number, anticipated change of address, and whether the offender has had medical treatment afterwards is kept confidential.

The offender’s name, aliases, address, photograph, physical description, driver’s license number, motor vehicle identification numbers, place of employment, date of birth, crime, date and place of conviction, length and conditions of sentence, and a statement as to whether the offender is in compliance with the Act’s update requirements or cannot be located are, however, published on the Internet. Both the Act’s registration and notification requirements are retroactive.


Respondents were convicted of aggravated sex offenses. Both were released from prison and completed rehabilitative programs for sex offenders. Although convicted before the Act’s passage, respondents are covered by it. After the initial registration, they are required to submit quarterly verifications and notify the authorities of any changes. Both respondents, along with the wife of one of them, also a respondent here, brought this action under 42 U.S. C. §1983, seeking to declare the Act void as to them under, inter alia, the Ex Post Facto Clause, U.S. Const., Art. I, §10, cl. 1.

The District Court granted petitioners summary judgment. The Ninth Circuit disagreed in relevant part, holding that, because its effects were punitive, the Act violates the Ex Post Facto Clause.

U.S. Supreme court Held: Because the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act is nonpunitive, its retroactive application does not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause.
Pp. 4—18.

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