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Judge cannot limit access to sex offender registry records

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Judge cannot limit access to sex offender registry records 05/17/99 KANSAS--The notification provisions of Kansas' Megan's Law require that Nathan…

Judge cannot limit access to sex offender registry records

05/17/99

KANSAS–The notification provisions of Kansas’ Megan’s Law require that Nathan Snelling’s registration as a sex offender be publicly available, the state’s high court ruled in March.

Snelling was required to register because when he was 17 he had sex with a 15-year-old girl. A lower court had held that that registration would not be publicly disclosed.

But the state’s Megan’s Law requiring that the community be notified of the presence of persons convicted of certain sex crimes does not permit closing off any part of the registry, the high court said.

Reversing the lower court decision, the state’s high court said that in Kansas, trial courts do not have the discretion to decide whether to apply public access provisions of the sex offender notification law.

In November 1997 Judge Hannelore Kitts of the County Court in Ellsworth ordered Snelling to comply with state law requiring him to register as a sex offender. He had pleaded guilty to indecent solicitation of a minor, an offense that is defined as a “sexually violent crime” under the state’s law. Although the girl testified that she chose to have sex with him and that he should not be punished, Kansas does not recognize consensual sex until age 16.

Judge Kitts ordered that Snelling’s record be closed to the public, saying that under the facts of his case, punishment by disclosure would be “cruel and unusual” and disproportionate to the offense.

The prosecutor appealed saying the registration penalty may be severe but it is not cruel and unusual, a finding that he said would make the Kansas law unconstitutional. All 50 states have enacted Megan’s Laws, he said, and at least three of those states provide unlimited public access to offender registers. (Kansas v. Snelling; Prosecutor: Joe Shepack, Ellsworth)