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Ruling approves stricter sex offender registration

CARSON CITY — A ruling by the Nevada Supreme Court on Friday gave the go-ahead for the state to implement stricter registration requirements for sex offenders.

Justices, in a unanimous ruling, denied a petition sought by 24 unnamed, previously convicted sex offenders to block the nearly decade-old law from being implemented while a lower court considers constitutional challenges. Justices said the judicial record of facts was insufficient for the high court’s review.

“It’s a really short order without any real information other than we lose,” said Maggie McLetchie, one of the lawyers for the men.

Monica Moazez, spokeswoman for the Nevada attorney general’s office, said lawyers received the ruling late Friday and are reviewing it.

Assembly Bill 579 was passed by lawmakers in 2007 to make Nevada compliant with the Adam Walsh Act, a federal law named after 6-year-old Adam Walsh who was kidnapped and murdered in 1981. It would require many offenders who judges have said are not dangerous and with convictions dating back to 1956 to register as sex offenders, making their names, photos and addresses available to the public.

Nevada currently has about 8,000 registered sex offenders. Of those, 4,600 are not subject to public notification because they are considered low risk for recidivism.

The law in Nevada has never been enforced and would create a classification system for sex offenders that places them into one of three risk tiers based solely on their crime of conviction without consideration of age or circumstances. A bill to fix some of the problems was passed by the state Legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval because it also eliminated a requirement that certain sex offenders stay at least 500 feet away from schools, parks and other places frequented by children.

McLetchie said one of her clients was convicted of statutory rape as a teenager. He’s now a grandfather.

“We have two clients that we think are being improperly subjected to registration and notification as sex offenders for things that aren’t even crimes now,” she said.

Nevada’s “infamous crimes against nature” law, now repealed, used to make it illegal for same-sex partners over the age of consent but under the age of 18 to engage in consensual sex acts.

During oral arguments before the Supreme Court in October, Kimberly Buchanan, a senior deputy attorney general, argued that many of the constitutional claims raised by the men were resolved in prior cases, including a challenge made by the ACLU of Nevada in 2008. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012 ruled in that case that the law was constitutional, including the retroactive registration requirement.

McLetchie said she hopes the state hold off implementing the law while the case proceeds in District Court.

“The case is certainly not over and we don’t intent to give up,” she said. “This is going to open a floodgate of litigation.”

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com. Find her on Twitter: @SandraChereb.

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