Monday, November 10, 2008

Sex Offender Ban on Parks Upheld

But Carmichael ruled that entering parks was not
“a fundamental right.”

A judge in Clark County has upheld the constitutionality of a Jeffersonville ordinance preventing convicted sex offenders from using the city’s parks.

The ruling last week by Superior Court 1 Judge Vicki Carmichael came in a lawsuit brought by Eric Dowdell against the city for preventing him from attending his son’s baseball games in the city’s Little League Ballpark.

The ordinance, enacted in 2006 and amended last year, says convicted sex offenders can’t use city parks but provides an appeal process in City Court for those who believe they deserve an exemption

Dowdell sought an exemption from the city court twice, arguing that he was no longer required to register on the state sexual offender registry for his 1997 conviction of sexual battery and that he posed no risk if he was allowed in the park.

But he was denied the exemption based largely on convictions of battery and domestic violence since his 1997 sexual battery conviction.

Carmichael’s ruling wasn’t specifically on Dowdell’s request for an exemption from the ordinance, but was on whether the ordinance was constitutional.

Ken Falk, legal director of the Indiana ACLU, argued for Dowdell that the Jeffersonville ordinance violated his right to use public parks. Falk cited federal law protecting fundamental rights and state law protecting the use of parks as a “core value.”

But Carmichael ruled that entering parks was not “a fundamental right.” She also said that because Dowdell had the right to seek an exemption but was denied one, the ordinance protected his legal right to due process. And she said the ordinance was not unduly punitive because it didn’t ban Dowdell from all public areas but only from parks, which she said the city has the right to regulate.

Gavin Rose, a lawyer with the state ACLU who has worked on the case, said today the organization hadn’t yet received a copy of Carmichael’s ruling and thus hadn’t decided whether to appeal.

Dowdell couldn’t be reached for comment.

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