Friday, January 18, 2008

Should Sex Offenders Get Tougher Penalties?

Lawsuit challenges sex offender laws

By Matt Sanctis

Staff Writer

Friday, January 18, 2008

SPRINGFIELD — Charles Gibson may well be the first sex offender in Clark County to challenge the state's new laws after he filed for a temporary restraining order earlier this week.

In a complaint filed in Clark County Common Pleas Court Monday, Gibson, of New Carlisle, requested that the court step in and prevent any action in his case, arguing that a recently passed state law that would alter his classification as a sex offender is unconstitutional.

The case centers on a federal law called the Adam Walsh Act that requires states to increase registration requirements for sex offenders before 2009. States that do not comply could lose federal funding. The law will affect thousands of sex offenders in Ohio, many of whom will have to register with their local sheriff's office for at least five more years than was previously required.

The problem, said Jay Lopez, an attorney representing Gibson in the case, is that the law applies retroactively, and in many cases, including Gibson's, will mean tougher requirements for sex offenders who have already been sentenced.

"We're just trying to maintain what the courts have previously decided," he said.

He said similar complaints have also been filed in Miami, Darke, Shelby and Montgomery counties. The Clark County Prosecutor's and sheriff's offices, as well as the Ohio Attorney General's Office, are all named in the complaint.

Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said Gibson's complaint was the first he has heard of in the county after the new law took effect this month

The prosecutor's office will work with the state before responding, said Clark County Prosecutor Stephen Schumaker.

"This was something that was expected and we'll coordinate with the Ohio Attorney General's Office," he said.

Similar complaints have been filed statewide, and Ohio officials have been expecting the challenges, said Jennifer Brindisi, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

Ohio was one of the first states to pass the laws. She noted the courts will likely have the final say, but the attorney general's office will defend the law, which she said will protect families and make a statement that Ohio will not be a "safe haven" for sex offenders.

"I don't think it was a surprise to anybody that there would be challenges," she said. "It's a good policy and we're going to stick to that."

Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0355 or

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