Each of the 92 individual sheriff’s offices across Indiana is required to maintain an up-to-date sex offender registry. However, after an Indiana Supreme Court case in 2009, each county now independently interprets the law.
Marion County Sheriff John Layton recently removed 520 names from the county’s Sex Offender Registry after erroneous records were discovered. Layton’s legal counsel, Kevin Murray, says the names removed were those of sex offenders who had been sentenced before Indiana had enacted a Sex Offender Registry law.
“In 2009 the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that these offenders need-not be part of the sex offender registry,” Murray says. “When that ruling came out, each and every county reacted differently.”
These offenders are often referred to as Wallace offenders after the 2009 court case, Wallace v. State, which essentially determined sex offenders sentenced before July 1st, 1994 were not required to register.
Morgan County Sheriff’s Office Investigator, Don Abel, says the problem is Wallace offenders have been registering since 1994 and every county has to decide what to do with that registration information now that they are no longer required to register.
“Some county’s prosecutors, I’m sure, said take them out of the list whether there is a court order or not, other prosecutors said don’t make them register but leave them on the list,” Abel says. “And there was a third set of prosecutors who said don’t make them register, leave them on the list, but don’t put their address on the list because if they’re not required to register they may no longer be living at that address.”
Abel’s biggest concern is a lack of standardization across the state.
Indiana Sheriffs Association Director, Steve Luce, says although no state entity regulates how the counties interpret the State Supreme Court ruling, his agency is trying to help sheriffs standardize their practices.
“It’s their record and they have to interpret. What we try to do with the Sheriff’s Association is to reach out to the legislators and try to get the legislation to where it can be interpreted one way so that everybody is consistent in how they do the registration,” Luce says.
Murray, Abel, and Luce say the legislation needs to catch up with the judicial decision regarding Wallace v. State. All three say they hope the general assembly will meet this summer to determine what the legislative reaction should be.