Changes in the Maryland Sex Offender Registration laws are, as a Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney something I have to be aware of. I have represented many defendants over the years who have been charged with sex offenses. In these cases the defendant faces not only the prospect of criminal punishment of his conduct but also the possibility of being required to register as a sex offender. On October 1, 2010 the Maryland Sex Offender Registration Statute, (Criminal Procedure Code Ann, Section 11-704) which was rewritten to bring in line with the comparable Federal Statute, went into effect. The new rules now require those convicted of fourth degree sex offenses to register. The issue and the reason for this blog is that the new statute was specifically designed to apply retroactively.
This retroactive application is legally problematic and possibly Unconstitutional in my view in certain instances. The Court of Appeals has already approved retroactive increases in the term of registration in the case of Young v. State. The Court ruled that sexual offender registration did not expose the defendant to to a greater penalty but was instead a remedial requirement for the protection of the public.
The real questionable application of the new law, that in my view can be differentiated from a mere increase in the term of registration, is the imposition of a retroactive requirement to register on people who were convicted of fourth degree sex offense and were not originally ordered to register as a result of their conviction. ( Prior to the change in the law it was left to the discretion of the trial court as to whether to require registration for fourth degree sex offenses and it was rarely ordered).
In particular I think this application becomes even more problematic when retroactive registration is applied to a defendant who pled guilty to a fourth degree sex offense when a specific component of the guilty plea was that he or she would not be required to register. This application I believe deprives the defendant of the benefit of the bargain that he or she reached with the State and therefore renders the guilty plea retroactively involuntary. I have a client who is in this situation right now based on a plea she entered last year. Here are the facts:
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