BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Louisiana’s Attorney General is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to put a hold on a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling that found a state law requiring convicted sex offenders to carry an official state ID with the words “SEX OFFENDER” is unconstitutional.
The ruling stems from a 2017 case involving a Lafayette man who was indicted under the law, accused of altering his official identificaton card.
Tazin Ardell Hill’s defense team successfully argued that the requirement violates the First Amendment prohibition against compelled speech and the case was thrown out. The state appealed, arguing among other things that Hill’s alteration of the ID card was not protected under the First Amendment “because the statute regulates conduct, not speech.”
State attorneys also argued that the state had a legitimate interest in having the information on the ID card: to let law enforcement officers know the cardholder’s criminal history.
The state’s highest court upheld the district court ruling, however, effectively striking down the state’s laws requiring branded IDs and prohibiting their alteration.
As the court noted in its ruling, other states (and the federal government) have enacted similar collections of laws. However, the specific requirement to carry a branded identification card distinguishes Louisiana from the rest of the country. Forty-one other states do not require any designation on the identification cards of sex offenders.
Justice James Genovese, writing for the majority, said there are less restrictive ways to inform law enforcement than requiring someone to show the branded card every time they are required to produce a government ID.
“A symbol, code, or a letter designation would inform law enforcement that they are dealing with a sex offender and thereby reduce the unnecessary disclosure to others during everyday tasks,” Genovese wrote.
He added that the state has a sex offender registry and other methods of notifying the public without compelling the offender to repeatedly self-identify as one every time an ID must be produced.
Now, Louisiana’s top prosecutor is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to put the state Supreme Court ruling on hold until it can be appealed.
In the stay request filed Friday, Landry said the decision “threatens irreparable public-safety harms,” arguing that “Louisiana now can neither protect its citizens from sex offenders by requiring them to carry a marked ID nor prosecute those sex offenders — like Hill — who fraudulently remove the sex-offender designation. Without this Court’s intervention, sex offenders can alter their IDs or forgo carrying them altogether. That makes Louisiana law enforcement and the public less able to identify sex offenders moving through the community, with potentially life-threatening consequences.”
Granting a stay, Landry said, would maintain the status quo and allow Louisiana to continue enforcing the law until the court can consider a petition he says is forthcoming.
“Ready access to the registry of sex offenders, who have had their days in court and were convicted of their crimes, is not always an option – especially during natural disasters and other emergencies,” Landry said in a statement released Friday. “Our Legislature recognized this crisis and established a process to protect public safety. Without the relief we seek from the Supreme Court, sex offenders in Louisiana will be able to move unnoticed through our communities. For the safety of past and future crime victims, I urge the Supreme Court to grant our request expeditiously and help us continue to protect Louisiana families.”