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Judge strikes down Louisiana law requiring some convicted prostitutes to register as sex offenders

Judge Martin Feldman of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] on Thursday issued a ruling [text, PDF] striking down the Crimes Against Nature by Solicitation [SB 381 text, PDF] law, which labels persons who are convicted of certain types of solictation as sex offenders. The new law effectively required those convicted of prostitution-like charges to register as sexual offenders while not imposing a similar requirement on persons convicted of actual prostitution charges. It targeted people who solicited oral or anal sexual acts for monetary compensation, describing these acts as "crimes against nature," while ignoring vaginal intercourse solicitation. Feldman found the law to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment [Cornel LII], and thus held it to be unconstitutional. Feldman wrote:

First, the State has created two classifications of similarly (in fact, identical) situated individuals who were treated differently (only one class is subject to mandatory sex offender registration). Second, the classification has no rational relation to any legitimate government objective: there is no legitimating rationale in the record to justify targeting only those convicted of Crime Against Nature by Solicitation for mandatory sex offender registration.
The "rational basis" test employed by Feldman gives the government significant deference, but he held that this law did not meet that standard when he wrote, "the defendants fail to credibly serve up even one unique legitimating governmental interest that can rationally explain the registration requirement."

US courts have seen numerous constitutional challenges to laws placing restrictions on sex offenders. In January, the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that a policy in the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, that bans registered sex offenders from entering the city's public libraries is unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties filed a complaint in federal court in August seeking to block a Louisiana law that limits Internet use for registered sex offenders [JURIST report]. In May 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled that mentally ill sex offenders may be civilly committed [JURIST report] beyond their prison sentences.

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