Sex Offender Registry Upheld by Ohio Supreme Court

by | November 16, 2015

By Laura A. Bischoff

Requiring convicted sex offenders to register their address with authorities is not cruel and unusual punishment, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a 7-2 decision in a case from Clark County.

Travis Blankenship, 21, began a consensual sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl, whom he initially met in 2011 via a social media site.

Blankenship pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor between 13 and 16 years old, and he was sentenced to five years of community control. He served 12 days of a six-month jail sentence as well.

Blankenship was categorized as a Tier II sex offender/child-victim offender, which requires him to register in person with the county sheriff, every six months for 25 years.

Blankenship appealed his sentence over the sex offender registration requirements, but the Second District Court of Appeals ruled that those requirements didn't violate the constitution.

Ohio law establishes three tiers of sex offenders, based on their offenses and other factors such as the age of the victim, the age gap between victim and offender, and the offender's criminal history.

Blankenship had sex with the girl twice while knowing she was a juvenile and violated a court order by contacting her while the case was pending -- factors that show he was culpable for his actions, Supreme Court Justice Judith Lanzinger concluded in her majority opinion.

Lanzinger wrote: "(We) cannot say that the state has no interest in protecting minors who may otherwise 'consent' to sexual activity. Consent plays no role and is not a viable defense in determining whether a person has violated (state law). A child under 16 is simply not legally capable of consent to sexual conduct with an adult."

The registration and reporting requirements are the same for Tier II offenders, whether they served 12 days or 18 months in prison and whether they're likely to commit another offense, noted Justice Paul Pfeifer in his dissenting opinion. Proportionality is lacking in this approach and is cruel and unusual as applied to Blankenship, he said.

(c)2015 Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)