People convicted of sex crimes can’t get their names removed from the sex offender registry simply by leaving the Palmetto State, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled.  

(Read the full story at the Post and Courier).

In a federal lawsuit, “John Doe” and the American Civil Liberties Union alleged the State Law Enforcement Division policy unconstitutionally punishes people who no longer live in South Carolina.

A federal court asked South Carolina justices to weigh in on whether state law allows the public registry to include information on people who don’t live here. 

The high court answered with a resounding “yes.” 

“We conclude South Carolina has a legitimate and fundamental interest in promoting the public health, safety and welfare of its citizens, regardless of imaginary boundary lines between states,” Justice George James wrote in the unanimous opinion.

While the convicted offender may no longer be a South Carolina resident and no longer need to show up in person to register his whereabouts, “he or she could easily travel to and from South Carolina at convenient times for licit and illicit purposes,” the opinion continues. 

Allowing sex offenders to get their names deleted by moving would ignore the reason for the law, James wrote. 

In a statement to The Post and Courier, attorneys for the ACLU of South Carolina said they’re disappointed by the state’s answer to the U.S. District Court’s question. 

But we “look forward to vindicating our client’s constitutional rights when the case returns to federal court,” they said. 

More than 8,000 people on South Carolina’s public registry don’t live there, the ACLU told the federal court last year.

“Some of these individuals — like John Doe — are listed on our registry despite no longer being required to register as a sex offender anywhere in the world,” the ACLU said in a court filing. “Because these individuals are not actively registering with law enforcement, their registry information is necessarily stale, inaccurate, and irrelevant to the safety and welfare of South Carolinians. And although publication of out-of-state offenders provides no discernible benefit to law enforcement or the community, it inflicts profound damage on the lives and reputations of the out-of-state individuals that are listed.”

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