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John Doe v New Hampshire

2-124-2015 New Hampshire:

John Doe v. New Hampshire

Petitioner John Doe appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to the State on his declaratory judgment action. In that action, petitioner sought a ruling that RSA chapter 651-B was unconstitutional as applied to him, because it violated the prohibition against retrospective laws and the due process clause of the State constitution.

Petitioner pled guilty to two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault which occurred in 1983 and 1984. On January 1, 1994, the petitioner became subject to registration as a sex offender. According to the petitioner, he was not aware of this requirement until 2004, but since then he has complied with all of the registration requirements.

Since an injury in 2006, the petitioner has been permanently disabled. He must use a cane to get around and he must use a scooter to travel any significant distance. Due to his injury and subsequent disability, the petitioner’s physicians have recommended that he obtain public housing in order to meet his medical needs. The petitioner sought housing through the Manchester Housing Authority and was initially approved. However, his approval was revoked because of his status as a registered sex offender.

Upon review, the Supreme Court found that RSA 651-B was intended by the Legislature as regulatory, but due to petitioner's disability and difficulties with housing, the statute exceeded "simply burdening or disadvantaging the petitioner, and we can no longer find that the effects are 'de minimus.'" "Absent the lifetime-registration-without-review provision, [the Supreme Court] would not find the other effects of the act sufficiently punitive to overcome the presumption of its constitutionality."

The Supreme Court further concluded that the act could be enforced against petitioner consistently with the constitutional prohibition against retrospective laws only if he was promptly given an opportunity for either a court hearing, or an administrative hearing subject to judicial review, at which he was permitted to demonstrate that he no longer posed a risk sufficient to justify continued registration.

The Court therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings.

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