NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge ruled Monday that Tennessee’s sex offender registration act is unconstitutional, at least as it was applied retroactively to two offenders.
The ruling in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee affects only the two men who sued, identified in court documents as John Doe #1 and John Doe #2.
“I think the ruling, while it is narrowly tailored to our clients, does open the door to the possibility of a class action,” attorney Ed Yarbrough said in an interview.
U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson had already ruled in February that parts of the law violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prevents people from being punished by a law passed after their crime was committed. On Monday, he ordered the state to stop enforcing any part of the law against the two plaintiffs and to remove their names from the sex offender registry.
According to court records, John Doe #1 was convicted in 1994 of two counts of attempted aggravated sexual battery, for which he received a sentence of five years’ probation. John Doe #2 was convicted in 2000 of three counts of sexual battery committed against a child 12 years or younger and was sentenced to six years of probation.
Under the Tennessee Sexual Offender and Violent Sexual Offender Registration Verification and Tracking Act of 2004, both were required to register as sex offenders with the state and regularly report in person to law enforcement. They also faced restrictions on where they could live and work, among other things.
The plaintiffs claimed they were forced to move out of their own homes, lost jobs and were prevented from spending time with their children.