U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch ruled that Colorado’s sex offender registry law was unconstitutional early this September, citing the Eighth Amendment’s “cruel and unusual punishment”, as it impeded on offender’s ability to find work or housing after completing probation and parole. While this ruling has no immediate effect, even on the three sex offenders who wanted to remove their information from the registry, if the case is appealed and upheld by the federal 10th Circuit (which includes courts in Colorado, Kansas, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and Oklahoma), then it would be binding.

The three plaintiffs described instances where they were punished outside of the judicial system, citing examples where all three were unable to find housing after hundreds of rental applications. In Judge Matsch’s ruling he determined that the law exposed sex offenders to punishments “not by the state, but by fellow citizens.” According to The Denver Post, Alison Ruttenberg (the three men’s lawyer) stated that her “goal eventually is to get rid of this sex offender registration altogether, at least as it applies to a public registry that people can pull up on a website.”

While the federal judge concluded that Colorado’s registration act poses a “serious threat of retaliation, violence, ostracism, shaming, and other unfair and irrational treatment from the public”, not everyone agrees. Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s office defended the sex offender registration act and has announced that she intends to appeal the decision. She cites that the three plaintiffs were all convicted sex offenders who committed sexual assault against minors and that “we must never lose sight of the responsibility we have to prevent the victimization of more innocent people.” She also states that the U.S. Supreme Court has already decided that sex offender registration laws are constitutional.

It is uncertain whether or not the 10th Circuit will uphold Matsch’s ruling or not. Late last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit held that Michigan’s sex offender registration amendments were unconstitutional as they imposed continued punishment on sex offenders, and on October 3, 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in a unanimous decision that the court would not take up Michigan’s appeal.

At the heart of the debate in Colorado is whether or not the public sex offender registry penalizes offenders too much, and if the public registry is effective at protecting citizens. While we don’t know yet how the 10th Circuit will rule, if sex offender records are no longer made public in the end, this could have a great effect on your tenant screening and the safety of your rental properties.

Does your tenant screening service include the sex offender registry records?

Do you think the Sex Offender Registry should remain public? Do you think the sex offender registry is effective at protecting the public? Let us know your thoughts and subscribe for more legislative updates!

 

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About the Author

Author Becky BowerBecky Bower is the Communications Executive here at the Resident Screening Blog. She holds a degree in English, with a focus in creative writing, from CSU Channel Islands. Her biggest weakness is cake and favorite superhero is Batman.

4 comments

  1. I think that people in housing management need to spend more time worrying about protecting their tenants from harm than about the “rights” of sex offenders. I manage a small, low-income housing complex and I check EVERYONE, not just men, against the list of local offenders. We need to think of the safety of our tenants first and foremost. Just because someone has done their time for whatever they did does not mean that they are safe to be around others.

  2. It’s been proven that sex offender registries do nothing to protect people and in fact do the opposite as it gives people a false sense of security. FBI statistics show that over 90% of new sex offenses are committed by new offenders. FBI statistics also show that sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rate save murder.

    Keep in mind it is also illegal to deny housing solely due to the potential tenant being a sex offender. As a landlord myself, i usually get around that by blanket banning all persons with a criminal record. However, if you have ever leased to a person with a criminal record and then deny a sex offender he/she can sue.

    1. Hi Kiru,

      Thanks for the response to our article! I would like to recommend being cautious with blanket policies regarding all persons with a criminal record. What is considered a felony in one state could be a misdemeanor or simple infraction in another state which could also lead to potential lawsuits. Check out one of our older articles that went into some additional detail regarding felonies in different states: https://residentscreeningblog.com/2015/08/20/myths-and-facts-about-criminal-records/

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