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The Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act, 1994 Alaska Sess. Laws 41, has a legitimate nonpunitive purpose of public safety, which is advanced by alerting the public to the risk of sex offenders in their community. This purpose is valid, and rational.
The Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act (Act), 1994 Alaska Sess. Laws 41, required the offenders to register with the state, to provide a wide range of personal information such as their appearance, location, employment, and circumstances of conviction, and to notify the state of any changes in the registration information. Respondents, who were previously convicted of aggravated sex offenses, contended that the Act was punitive in nature, and thus constituted retroactive punishment in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause, but the petitioner officials argued that the Act was a non-punitive regulatory scheme enacted for the protection of the public. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of petitioners. On appeal, the appellate court held that the Act violated the ex post facto prohibition in Art I, 10, cl 1, as applied to offenders whose crimes had been committed before the statute's enactment. According to the appellate court, even though the Alaska legislature had intended that the Act would provide a non-punitive and civil regulatory scheme, the statute’s effects were punitive.
Was the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act punitive in nature?
The United States Supreme Court held that the Act was non-punitive, and its retroactive application thus did not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause. The Act was clearly intended as a civil, non-punitive means of identifying previous offenders for the protection of the public, properly based on the high incidence of recidivism of such offenders. Further, the stigma and adverse community reactions which could result from registration did not render the Act effectively punitive, since the dissemination of the registration information, which was largely a matter of public record, did not constitute the imposition of any significant affirmative disability or restraint.