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Hustler Store Challenges Ohio Sex Offender Registration Law

Last year, the Ohio legislature jumped into the fiesta of states trying to outdo each other passing stronger and stronger sex offender registration laws. Ohio’s Adam Walsh compliance act, Senate Bill 10 seems to have stepped over a Constitutional line.

A few of Ohio’s “community values” legislators slipped a little treat into the Adam Walsh bill that they hoped would help drive porn out of Ohio. The law states that anyone convicted of “pandering obscenity” is automatically labeled a “Tier I sex offender,” and must register as one. A Hustler Store employee has challenged the constitutionality of the law on inter alia First Amendment grounds.

The employee, identified as “G.B.,” and her lawyers Louis Sirkin, Jennifer Kinsley, and Scott Nazzarine filed a complaint in U.S. District Court seeking to overturn the law.

From the complaint:

Unlike the remainder of the Adam Walsh Act, Ohio’s automatic Tier I classification for individuals convicted of pandering obscenity is neither intended to protect children or the community at large, nor is it narrowly tailored to serve those objectives. Under the new classification system unveiled in Senate Bill 10, an individual convicted of pandering obscenity involving a minor, a separate offense, falls into the Tier II category for the purposes of registration and verification. Therefore, the requirement that individuals convicted of pandering obscenity be mechanically classified as Tier I sex offenders and subject to all registration, residency, and verification requirements therein, expressly targets obscenity that does not involve minors in any capacity.

To successfully prosecute a defendant for distribution of obscenity, the state must prove that material violates “contemporary community standards.” Even though standards may evolve during the 15 years of registration for a Tier I offender, the law does not provide for any review of the offender’s status.

Attorney Jennifer Kinsley had this to say in a LS exclusive interview:

It is unfortunate that a single mother who is just doing her job could inadvertently wind up being labeled as a sex offender. She should not be grouped with actual child predators, with her name, picture, and residential address on websites all across the country, all for making an incorrect assumption as to the community standards of the county in which she works.

When legislators scramble over themselves to pass laws named after little kids, you wind up with laws being pushed by hysteria — not by logic. Unfortunately, in passing this version of the Adam Walsh Act, the Ohio legislature appears to have mixed in a bit of censorship for good measure.

Fortunately, G.B. and the First Amendment are in great hands. Louis Sirkin is widely recognized as one of the living greats of the First Amendment bar, and Kinsley and Nazzarine are two of its rising stars.

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