The defendant, Biddle, was convicted in South Carolina in 1993 for a lewd act on a child. In 2014, Biddle moved to Alabama to live with his sister. His conviction for a sex crime required that he register as a sex offender in Alabama under the Sex Offender Act.
Biddle was also subjected to the residency restrictions set out in the Act, which included a prohibition against residing within 2,000 feet of a school or a child care facility.
Biddle was indicted for violating the residency requirements of the Act in May, 2014. After the conclusion of a bench trial, Biddle was found not guilty in August 2014. During the course of the bench trial, Biddle filed a petition pursuant to Section 15-20A-23 of the Registered Sex Offender’s Act.
The Act provides that a registered sex offender can seek relief from the residency restrictions of the Act, if the offender is terminally ill. Biddle argued that he was terminally ill and that his sister would care for him if he resided with her in the future. The State challenged the circuit court’s jurisdiction and asserted Biddle’s petition was not complete because he had not paid a filing fee. Also, Biddle had not requested in indigent status. The circuit court granted Biddle’s petition.
The State filed a petition for a writ of mandamus to challenge the circuit court’s jurisdiction and an appeal seeking alternative relief if it was determined the circuit court had jurisdiction. The Alabama Supreme Court granted the Writ of Mandamus.
The Court stated the issue of whether the circuit court had jurisdiction turned on whether the proceeding was civil or criminal in nature. In Lee v. State, 895 So.2d 1038 (Ala. Crim. App. 2004), the Court concluded that the now repealed predecessor to the Act was not an ex post facto law.
The Court held that the prior act was intended to create a civil regulatory scheme. The Act did not have any punitive effect on the appellant that negated the legislative intent behind it. In Section 15-20A-2, the legislature declares that its “intent in imposing certain registration, notification, monitoring, and tracking requirements on sex offenders is not to punish sex offenders but to protect the public and, most importantly, promote child safety.”
The Court further noted that the legislature has amended the Act effective September 2015 to expressly state that petitions from residency restrictions are civil in nature. As a civil proceeding, therefore, Biddle’s petition required that he pay a filing fee or a court approved statement of substantial hardship to invoke the jurisdiction of the circuit court.
The long term effects of having to register as a sex offender are for life and failure to register according to the law can have additional criminal consequences. If you are requesting relief from registering as a sex offender or are unsure about reporting requirements, please contact my office before you reach a settlement. I can help you get the relief you are entitled to. Call Joseph Ingram with INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 335-2640.. Get Relief – Get Results.