Hensler v. Cross

In Hensler v. Cross, 210 W. Va. 530, 558 S.E.2d 330 (2001), the appellant argued that the application of the Act in his case violated the ex post facto clause because the offenses to which he plead nolo contendre had occurred prior to the creation of the Act. First, the Court examined the history of the Act in an effort to determine whether the Act was civil, which would not implicate the ex post facto clause, or punitive, which would violate the clause. The Court held: "The question whether an Act is civil or punitive in nature is initially one of statutory construction. A court will reject the Legislature's manifest intent only when a party challenging the Act provides the clearest proof that the statutory scheme is so punitive in either purpose or effect as to negate the Legislature's intention." After examining cases from other jurisdictions and reviewing the regulatory purposes of the Act as enunciated by the Legislature, the Court held: "The Sex Offender Registration Act, W. Va. Code 15-12-1 to 10, is a regulatory statute which does not violate the prohibition against ex post facto laws." Id. at syl. pt. 5.