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Gonzalez v State

1-10-2013 Indiana:

Gonzalez v State
No. 45S03-1206-CR-307.

After the defendant had fully served his sentence of imprisonment and probation for Child Solicitation, and during the ten-year period of his required registration as a sex offender, the statutory registration requirement was amended to require lifetime registration in certain circumstances. The defendant's offense fell within these circumstances. Upon completion of his ten-year registration requirement, the defendant unsuccessfully sought his removal from the Sex Offender Registry, claiming refuge under the Indiana Constitution's prohibition against ex post facto laws. We hold that, under the facts of this case and as applied to this defendant, the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Indiana Constitution prohibits retroactive application of the lifetime registration requirement.

In 1997, the defendant, Andre Gonzalez, pled guilty to Child Solicitation, a class D felony.1 Ind. Code § 35-42-4-6. The trial court imposed a three-year sentence, with eighteen months incarcerated and eighteen months on probation. Upon discharge from probation in 1999, the defendant was required to register as a sex offender for ten years pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration Act ("Act"). See Ind. Code § 5-2-12-5 (1996). In 2006, the legislature amended the Act to require certain sex offenders, based on the details of their crimes, to register with local law enforcement for life. See, e.g., Ind. Code § 11-8-8-19(c) (requiring lifetime registration if offender over age eighteen and victim under age twelve at time of crime). In 2010, after the defendant had completed ten years of registration, he wrote the trial court, requesting the removal of his registration requirement. On January 27, 2011, the defendant, by counsel, filed a "Verified Petition to Remove Sex Offender Designation Pursuant to Ind. Code 11-8-8-22." Appellant's App'x at 34. The trial court denied the petition, and the defendant appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed. Gonzalez v. State, 966 N.E.2d 648 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012). The State sought transfer, urging that the decision of the Court of Appeals is inconsistent with precedent. We granted transfer and thus consider the appeal and issues as originally presented to the Court of Appeals. Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).

In his appeal the defendant contends that, as applied to him, the 2006 amendments to the Act, which belatedly extend his registration requirement from ten years to life, violate the prohibition against ex post facto laws contained in the Indiana Constitution. Ind. Const. art. 1, § 24. Important in the defendant's claim is that there is no opportunity for review of the defendant's future dangerousness or complete rehabilitation. The State asserts that the availability of a review process is irrelevant to the ex post facto determination.

The Indiana Constitution states "No ex post facto law . . . shall ever be passed." Id. This provision prohibits, in relevant part, the passage of any law "which imposes a punishment for an act which was not punishable at the time it was committed; or imposes additional punishment to that then prescribed." Weaver v. Graham, 450 U.S. 24, 28, 101 S.Ct. 960, 964, 67 L. Ed. 2d 17, 22 (1981) (quoting Cummings v. Missouri, 71 (4 Wall.) U.S. 277, 325-26, 18 L. Ed. 356, 364 (1867)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The policy underlying the Ex Post Facto Clause is to give effect to the fundamental principle that "persons have a right to fair warning of that conduct which will give rise to criminal penalties." Armstrong v. State, 848 N.E.2d 1088, 1093 (Ind. 2006) (quoting Marks v. United States, 430 U.S. 188, 191, 97 S.Ct. 990, 992-93, 51 L. Ed. 2d 260, 265 (1977)).2


We apply the seven Mendoza-Martinez factors to guide our evaluation of the defendant's claim that, as applied to him, the retroactive imposition of a lifetime registration period violates the Ex Post Facto Clause. Our task is not merely to determine whether there are more punitive or non-punitive factors, but to consider them collectively to determine whether the application of the challenged statute's effects upon the defendant are so punitive in nature as to constitute a criminal penalty. See Wallace, 905 N.E.2d 378-79.

The underlying conviction of the defendant for Child Solicitation was for a D felony, the lowest class of felony under Indiana's criminal code. Although the defendant was sentenced to the maximum term of three years, eighteen months were suspended to probation. Because of the nature of the offense, the then-prevailing statutes required him to register as a sex offender for ten years, which registration he completed.

As we collectively weigh the punitive and non-punitive nature of the seven factors as they apply to this defendant and his circumstances, we find that to apply the 2006 amendments so as to subject this defendant to a lifetime registration requirement violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Indiana Constitution.

We reverse the denial of the defendant's petition to remove the lifetime registration requirement and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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