DELBERT W. SMITH and BRUCE M. BOTELHO,
JOHN DOE I et al.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
[March 5, 2003]
Justice Stevens, dissenting in No. 01—729 and concurring in the judgment in No. 01—1231.*
These two cases raise questions about statutes that impose affirmative obligations on convicted sex offenders. The question in
No. 01—729 is whether the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act is an
ex post facto
law, and in No. 01—1231 it is whether
Connecticut’s similar law violates the Due Process Clause.
The Court’s opinions in both cases fail to decide whether the statutes deprive the registrants of a constitutionally protected
interest in liberty. If no liberty interest were implicated, it seems clear that neither statute would raise a colorable constitutional
427 U.S. 215
(1976). Proper analysis of both cases should therefore begin with a consideration of
the impact of the statutes on the registrants’ freedom.
The statutes impose significant affirmative obligations and a severe stigma on every person to whom they apply. In Alaska, an
offender who has served his sentence for a single, nonaggravated crime must provide local law enforcement authorities with
extensive personal information–including his address, his place of employment, the address of his employer, the license plate
number and make and model of any car to which he has access, a current photo, identifying features, and medical treatment–at
least once a year for 15 years. If one has been convicted of an aggravated offense or more than one offense, he must report this
same information at least quarterly for life. Moreover, if he moves, he has
working day to provide updated information.
Registrants may not shave their beards, color their hair, change their employer, or borrow a car without reporting those events to
the authorities. Much of this registration information is placed on the Internet. In Alaska, the registrant’s face appears on a
webpage under the label “Registered Sex Offender.” His physical description, street address, employer address, and conviction
information are also displayed on this page.
The registration and reporting duties imposed on convicted sex offenders are comparable to the duties imposed on other
convicted criminals during periods of supervised release or parole. And there can be no doubt that the “[w]idespread public
, at 12 (opinion in No. 01—
729), to this personal and constantly updated information has a severe stigmatizing effect. See Brief for the Office of the Public
Defender for the State of New Jersey et al. as
7—21 (providing examples of threats, assaults, loss of housing, and
loss of jobs experienced by sex offenders after their registration information was made widely available). In my judgment, these
statutes unquestionably affect a constitutionally protected interest in liberty. Cf.