One-fourth of the names on Maryland’s sex offender registry could be removed after the state’s top court expanded on a ruling that adding offenders from before the list was created violated the state constitution, reports the Baltimore Sun. The Court of Appeals declared last year that the state could not require the registration of people who committed their crimes before October 1995, when the database was established. State officials removed the one name in question in that case but maintained that federal law required them to keep older cases in the database.
Yesterday, the judges ruled in two cases that federal law doesn’t override the state constitution. Those who say the registries are punitive and do little to protect future victims hailed the ruling. Victims’ advocates expressed disappointment. They see the registry as a useful tool to alert families to potential predators in their midst. As many as 1,800 of the state’s 8,000 registered sex offenders could be affected by the decisions, and other cases are pending that could expand the number of people whose names are scrubbed. Maryland requires people convicted of certain sex crimes to register for 15 years, 25 years or for life, depending on the severity of their conviction, and publishes a searchable online database of the list.