Better words can’t be written in a court opinion: “Under our constitution, citizens have the right to be free from retroactive punishment,” the decision said. The Montana Supreme Court ruled recently that the application of new laws after someone’s conviction is unconstitutional. The requirements of the registry are so demanding that it represents punishment. The combination of the punishing nature of the registry and the after the fact (Ex Post Facto) application rendered it unconstitutional to both the Montana and the US Constitution.
Montana’s registry for sexual and violent offenders is very similar to most states. It started simple and unobtrusive in the lives of those affected. It only involved mailing a post card. Time on the registry was also supposed to expire. Over years of having the registry in place, so many requirements and punishments for failure to comply were added with each revision that it was deemed to control the lives of those forced to be on it.
As troubling to the Judges, was their alarm at the lack of benefit to having people on the registry. No evidence was presented that convinced them that all these new requirements were reducing sexual or violent crime rates. They concluded the registry only existed to ostracize those forced to be on it.
This ruling will benefit all Montanans forced to register whose crimes were before major changes took place to registry requirements. It is a very big win.