Connecticut's Act Held In Violation of Due Process Clause
In Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. Doe, 538 U.S. 1, 155 L. Ed. 2d 98, 123 S. Ct. 1160 (2003), the United States Supreme Court considered a procedural-due-process challenge to Connecticut's sex offender law, which "applies to all persons convicted of criminal offenses against a minor, violent and nonviolent sexual offenses, and felonies committed for a sexual purpose." 538 U.S. at 4.
The federal circuit court held that Connecticut's Act "violated the Due Process Clause because officials did not afford registrants a predeprivation hearing to determine whether they are likely to be 'currently dangerous.'" Id. at 4 (quoting Doe v. Department of Public Safety, 271 F.3d 38, 46 (2d Cir. 2001)).
The Supreme Court, noting that "Connecticut ... has decided that the registry requirement shall be based on the fact of previous conviction, not the fact of current dangerousness," reversed the circuit court "because due process does not require the opportunity to prove a fact e.g., current dangerousness that is not material to the State's statutory scheme." Doe, 538 U.S. at 4.
The Court went on to explain that the fact that respondent seeks to prove -- that he is not currently dangerous -- is of no consequence under Connecticut's Megan's Law.... the law's requirements turn on an offender's conviction alone -- a fact that a convicted offender has already had a procedurally safeguarded opportunity to contest.
No other fact is relevant to the disclosure of registrants' information....
In short, even if respondent could prove that he is not likely to be currently dangerous, Connecticut has decided that the registry information of all sex offenders -- currently dangerous or not -- must be publicly disclosed.... Any hearing on current dangerousness would be a bootless exercise. Id. at 7-8.
In Doe, the United States Supreme Court considered a similar procedural due process challenge to Connecticut's sex offender law.
Importantly, the Connecticut Act simply requires the registration of certain sex offenders without designating them as "sexual predators."
The Supreme Court upheld the Connecticut Act and distinguished its provisions from other cases where the Court had held that due process requires a hearing before some specific classification or designation is made.
The Court noted that "Connecticut ... has decided that the registry requirement shall be based on the fact of previous conviction, not the fact of current dangerousness.... We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals because due process does not require the opportunity to prove a fact that is not material to the State's statutory scheme." Doe, 538 U.S. at 4.