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 Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act requires convicted sex offenders to register with law enforcement authorities, and
much of the information is made public. We must decide whether the registration requirement is a retroactive punishment
prohibited by the
Ex Post Facto
The State of Alaska enacted the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act (Act) on May 12, 1994. 1994 Alaska Sess. Laws ch. 41.
Like its counterparts in other States, the Act is termed a “Megan’s Law.” Megan Kanka was a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who
was sexually assaulted and murdered in 1994 by a neighbor who, unknown to the victim’s family, had prior convictions for sex
offenses against children. The crime gave impetus to laws for mandatory registration of sex offenders and corresponding
community notification. In 1994, Congress passed the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender
Registration Act, title 17, 108 Stat. 2038, as amended,
42 U.S.C. § 14071
which conditions certain federal law enforcement
funding on the States’ adoption of sex offender registration laws and sets minimum standards for state programs. By 1996, every
State, the District of Columbia, and the Federal Government had enacted some variation of Megan’s Law.
The Alaska law, which is our concern in this case, contains two components: a registration requirement and a notification
system. Both are retroactive. 1994 Alaska Sess. Laws ch. 41, §12(a). The Act requires any “sex offender or child kidnapper who
is physically present in the state” to register, either with the Department of Corrections (if the individual is incarcerated) or with
the local law enforcement authorities (if the individual is at liberty). Alaska Stat. §§12.63.010(a), (b) (2000). Prompt registration
is mandated. If still in prison, a covered sex offender must register within 30 days before release; otherwise he must do so within
a working day of his conviction or of entering the State. §12.63.010(a). The sex offender must provide his name, aliases,
identifying features, address, place of employment, date of birth, conviction information, driver’s license number, information
about vehicles to which he has access, and postconviction treatment history. §12.63.010(b)(1). He must permit the authorities to
photograph and fingerprint him. §12.63.010(b)(2).
If the offender was convicted of a single, nonaggravated sex crime, he must provide annual verification of the submitted
information for 15 years. §§12.63.010(d)(1), 12.63.020(a)(2). 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. §§12.63.010(d)(2), 12.63.020(a)(1). The offender must
notify his local police department if he moves. §12.63.010(c). A sex offender who knowingly fails to comply with the Act is