Sex Offender Registry

Supreme Court Declines To Hear Louisiana's Defense of a Law That Stamped 'SEX OFFENDER' on Driver's Licenses

The policy imposed an additional form of ritual humiliation on a reviled category of people without any plausible public-safety justification.


The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear Louisiana's appeal of a decision against its 2006 law requiring that people on the state's sex offender registry carry IDs or driver's licenses that say "SEX OFFENDER" in orange capital letters. A year ago, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded that the requirement amounted to compelled speech and could not be justified by the state's legitimate interest in protecting public safety. In addition to raising First Amendment issues, Louisiana's now-moribund law illustrates the longstanding tendency to impose additional punishment on people convicted of sex offenses in the guise of regulation.

The registries themselves, which require sex offenders to regularly report their addresses to local law enforcement agencies so that information can be made publicly available in online databases that also include their names, photographs, and physical descriptions, are primarily punitive, exposing registrants to ostracism, harassment, and violence while impeding their rehabilitation by making it difficult to find employment and housing. There is little evidence that the sort of public notification practiced by every state delivers benefits that outweigh those costs. Louisiana's experiment in ritual humiliation, which branded registrants with orange letters they had to display in every transaction that required producing a government-issued ID, compounded those costs without offering any plausible benefits.

One problem with sex offender registries is that they cover a wide range of crimes, including many that do not involve violence, force, or physical contact. While people tend to imagine rapists or child molesters when they hear the term sex offender, the reality can be quite different, in ways that are important in assessing the danger that a person might pose to the general public or to people in particular age groups.

In Louisiana, for example, mandatory registration applies not only to crimes like rape and sexual assault but also to nonviolent offenses, such as voyeurism, possession of child pornography, consensual sex between adults who are closely related, sex between high school teachers and students (even when the student has reached the age of consent), and employment of a minor in "any practice, exhibition, or place, dangerous or injurious to the life, limbs, health, or morals of the minor." Robert Suttle, who posted the picture of his driver's license shown above, was forced to register because he was convicted of intentionally exposing someone to HIV, which resulted in a six-month prison sentence. After a bad breakup, he says, his former partner told the police he had not been informed of Suttle's HIV status.

The second line of each record in the state's registry shows the offender's "tier," which corresponds to various crimes classified by severity, ranging from Tier 1 (least serious, requiring registration for 15 years) to Tier 3 (most serious, requiring lifetime registration). Further down in the record, you can see the statute under which the registrant was convicted (e.g., "carnal knowledge of a juvenile"), which still omits potentially important details.

The driver's license warning required by Louisiana's law did not provide even that much information, meaning that anyone who saw it was invited to assume the worst. Tazin Hill, the man who challenged the law, completed his prison sentence in 2013. He was convicted of having sex with a 14-year-old when he was 32, which placed him in Tier 1. But anyone who saw his license had no way of knowing the nature or severity of his offense. Rebelling at this government-imposed badge of shame, Hill excised the "SEX OFFENDER" label from his license and covered the gap with clear tape, which resulted in the criminal charges that gave rise to this case.

Another problem with sex offender registries is the mistaken assumption that people who fall into this broad category are more likely to commit additional crimes than, say, robbers, burglars, or arsonists. When it upheld mandatory "treatment" of sex offenders in prison, for example, the Supreme Court relied on a highly dubious recidivism estimate that was repudiated by its original source but has nevertheless been cited repeatedly by lower courts. The "SEX OFFENDER" stamp on Louisiana driver's licenses, even more than the registry, promoted such erroneous fears by implying that the bearer posed an ongoing threat, no matter the details of his crime, how long ago it occurred, or how he had behaved since he completed his sentence.

The empirically unjustified belief that sex offenders are highly prone to recidivism is especially inaccurate and damaging when applied to people convicted as minors, who are included in Louisiana's registry and therefore had to carry "SEX OFFENDER" IDs or driver's licenses. Judy Mantin, who this year testified before a state legislative committee that was considering revisions to Louisiana's law in light of the state Supreme Court's ruling, said her son "made a mistake" when he was 14 but today is "a very productive citizen." She argued that "our children deserve a second chance in life."

Legislators ostensibly have made the same judgment regarding adults convicted of sex offenses, who have notionally paid their debt to society once they complete their criminal sentences. Yet legislators imply otherwise by imposing additional burdens on those people for decades after their official punishment. In this case, any interaction involving a driver's license—e.g., with cashiers, hotel clerks, bank tellers, employers, landlords, election officials, or airport security screeners—became a new invitation to close-range fear and loathing.

What was the justification for this requirement, which added to the burdens imposed by registration, public notification, and residence restrictions? The state argued that the "SEX OFFENDER" label facilitated law enforcement by alerting police officers to a person's status. But police already could readily check that by consulting the state's database. And as the Louisiana Supreme Court noted, the state could have eliminated even that slight inconvenience with a more discreet label: "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."

Such a solution would not be adequate, the state argued in its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, because "the Louisiana Legislature concluded that the public, and not merely law enforcement, needs to know of a sex offender's status under limited circumstances." Such as?

"A property manager needs to know a sex offender's status when leasing an apartment—or the manager might incur liability if a tenant is raped on the premises," the petition said. "A church or Red Cross facility may need to know a person's status as a sex offender when providing shelter from a storm. People trick or-treating on Halloween may need a quick way to verify that their children are safe from predators."

During a lower-court hearing, one of the state's lawyers offered another example:

If I'm deciding who I want to be my babysitter and I know that I don't want a sex offender to babysit my children, I say, "OK. I'd like to see your ID before I allow you to babysit my children." And, "Oh, it says 'sex offender.' I'm not going to hire you."

The Halloween scenario suggests the state's desperation, not only because this particular hazard is an urban legend but also because it is difficult to imagine a situation in which parents would demand to see the driver's licenses of neighbors handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Even when the concerns are more reasonable, the public registry, for better or worse, already allowed anyone to look up an individual and see if he was listed; that was supposedly the whole purpose of creating a publicly accessible database in the first place.

"Louisiana's branded-identification regime was an outlier in singling registrants out for public opprobrium," Hill's lawyers noted in their brief urging the Supreme Court not to consider the state's appeal. "Just two other States require identification cards to display phrases like 'SEX OFFENDER,' while only six States have laws that require identification cards to include other types of sexual offense disclosure—typically a symbol or statute number recognizable only to law enforcement."

Even as an outlier, Louisiana's law suggests how ready politicians are to support practically any burden on sex offenders, whether or not it makes sense as a tool to promote public safety. Policies like these serve no useful purpose, but they do make life harder for a reviled category of people whose punishment never ends.

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  1. Sarc is black?

    1. Ahem. The correct term is dinger.

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  2. The policy imposed an additional form of ritual humiliation on a reviled category of people without any plausible public-safety justification.

    I thought ritual humiliation was in vogue right now. Or am I watching too much mainstream news again?

    1. Sex offenders today, Trump voters tomorrow, people who don’t sort their recycling the day after that.

      1. I’d say they might put a yellow star on it, but they already have that.

      2. The unvaccinated, General; don’t forget the unvaccinated.

      3. This could all be over pretty quickly once enough people grasp the simple mathematical solution to the problem.

      4. Trump voters? Wow! That man lives in your head rent free. I’m sure R. Kelly was a Trump voter so try again.

    2. What they don’t understand is… Ostracizing these people is better than having the victims families go after them with vigilante justice.

      A good friend of mine should have another great aunt… But she disappeared when she was 6 n then was found dead in a creepy neighbors basement. He said she must’ve climbed in the coal door.

      He was mysteriously hit by a car and killed a week later.

      1. The system works. Let’s hope Buttplug meets a similar end, but something a little slower, and more painful.

        1. Let me guess – you’re a “Christian”? I bet you love reading Numbers 31:17-18. Maybe put “god” on the sex offender registry for child human trafficking. But remember, he only wanted them to keep the “virgin female children”. Interrrestiiiiiing.

      2. Chicago, and LA are full of criminals who have known rap sheets. Their mug shots and addresses aren’t secret.

        Everyone in the city can spot these thugs miles away, they’ve got police always watching, and they stick out from polite society.

        Does it stop crime? No.

        The only thing that stops crime is a good long jail term. Not lists, photos, or public shaming.

      3. “…Ostracizing these people is better than having the victims families go after them with vigilante justice.”

        So, victim families want the rest of society to do their dirty work for them? Make’em get their unlawful vengeance themselves and then we can see if the justice system is working properly. Certainly, any public harassment and inconveniences of offenders are insufficient to satisfy their righteous anger.

  3. “Unvaccinated “ will be ok.

  4. Louisiana Supreme Court concluded that the requirement amounted to compelled speech and could not be justified by the state’s legitimate interest in protecting public safety.

    Someone saw the whole trans debate coming down the line and acted early.

    1. A year ago, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded that the requirement amounted to compelled speech and could not be justified by the state’s legitimate interest in protecting public safety.

      By the way… while I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other on this particular topic, although I probably lean somewhat towards the “it shouldn’t be on the DL” side of the equation, I don’t understand the Louisiana supreme court ruling here. What appears on my DL is not MY speech, but the State’s speech. And 100% of it is required by law to be there.

      Hair Color, Weight, Needs corrective lenses, Organ Donor, etc. All of that is placed on the driver’s license and I have no choice about it– yes, I can choose or choose not to be an organ donor, but once I choose that, it appears on the license. I can’t say to the DOL: Yeah, birthday, Nah… don’t want that…

      Is my DOB now ‘compelled speech’?

      1. It’s “compelled speech” in that the ID is an affirmative statement of “this is who I am”. i.e. “My name is X and I live at Y and I was born Z and I AM A SEX OFFENDER”. Thus, it’s compelled in that the state is forcing someone to include that as a marker of identity.

        I’m not convinced by the argument. And neither was the dissent.

        1. Hello sir, you here for a driver’s license?


          Ok, I’ll need your full name, two forms of id, a bill with an address on it…

          You’re required to say “My name is X and I live at Y”

          I don’t see this as a compelled speech case. I’m not saying there isn’t an argument for removing Sexy Offender off the license, but the 1st amendment seems dubious to me.

          1. The State requires a US or State government issued ID to be presented for all sorts of purposes, to prove identity.

            The most common form of ID is the drivers license.

            To force sex offenders to either get a different form of government ID, or disclose their criminal history by showing their drivers licenses, is compelled speech.

            It’s that simple.

            Part of the problem is with government requiring proof of identity for so many things, from opening bank accounts to buying beer to getting on board a plane.

            If a drivers license were only ever shown to police, Louisiana might have won the case.

            But because the state makes residents show ID for so much, having non-identity information involuntarily on the license amounts to compelling speech.

            1. Yeah. You shouldn’t have to reveal your criminal history to buy beer or open a bank account.

          2. I agree. It’s government speech, just like the name of the state, the ID number, and everything else on there. It shouldn’t be there, but this isn’t why.

        2. You’re not convinced by the argument until anything similar violates YOUR constitutional rights. Then you’ll be at the front of the complainant line.

  5. So, for examples of overreach you didn’t use public urination. You used CHILD PORNOGRAPHY and sex with students, and a 32 year old having sex with a 14 year old.

    nice job.

    1. I was thinking the same. However, even non-sociopathic individuals will, after a while of observing Jacob Sullum, start to see patterns. It will begin to make sense and you will understand why he does what he does.

      1. So…. Is Sullum Buttplug?

        1. Well, if he used one at work, we would see fewer articles in his name. Most don’t require him to use his head to be produced.

    2. Well, if it’s bad law, it’s bad law even when applied to bad people.

    3. Exactly my thought. It’s almost like he didn’t want to be taken seriously. Or was signaling to the watching pervs that he really was in their corner.

    4. Elvis Presley was 24, Priscilla was 14. And she admits she went to the man’s house with ZERO SUPERVISION. I don’t see anyone complaining about Elvis’s face gracing the cover of Time Magazine every year.

  6. Why did Reason use a black man to illustrate SEX OFFENDER?

      1. His crime? He didn’t marry her first. This is Louisiana, after all.

        1. I feel the pain of all the losers that have this written on their DL.

          I am also grateful to all the liberal/progressive commenters here who have showed me how good it tastes to taunt and wish the worst to other human beings irrespective of who they are and what their background may be. It is indeed delicious.

          1. “I feel the pain of all the losers that have this written on their DL.”

            And none of them EVER got railroaded? Set up like a bowling pin?

            I will PRETEND to “feel your pain”, when YOUR supposedly perfectly-just system railroads YOU for pissing in the woods while hiking or hunting, and a game warden, unbeknownst to you, spies you and your unauthorized tinkling with their binoculars, from afar, and gets you convicted!

            Oh, but such shit only befalls your inferiors, right, smug asshole? What comes around, goes around!

            1. LMAO the retired, impotent, dilapidated social justice whiner has entered the stage. 😀

              I feel your pain, loser.

            2. Does this hit home with you or something? Why are you so triggered? Are you retired against your will for whatever “reason”? xD

              1. Why are you deflecting from what he said? And are you an internet psychic or just like making assumptions about people you don’t agree with?

          2. If you feel their pain, then WHY do you call them losers?

            YOU are the “loser” here when you say crap like that! You LOSE the respect of people who actually KNOW what respect is! And I have no respect for LOSERS like YOU, who don’t respect others!

            If you ever come around to wanting to work on your affliction, LoserFuhrer, start here: M. Scott Peck, The People of the Lie, the Hope for Healing Human Evil
            People who are evil attack others instead of facing their own failures. Peck demonstrates the havoc these “people of the lie” work in the lives of those around them.

            1. Oh delicious.

              I feel your pain, degraded, old loser.

              1. Hi Tulpa! Get that yeast infection of yours treated, eh?

                “Dear Abby” is a personal friend of mine. She gets some VERY strange letters! For my amusement, she forwards some of them to me from time to time. Here is a relevant one:

                Dear Abby, Dear Abby,
                My life is a mess,
                Even Bill Clinton won’t stain my dress,
                I whinny seductively for the horses,
                They tell me my picnic is short a few courses,
                My real name is Mary Stack,
                NO ONE wants my hairy crack!
                On disability, I live all alone,
                Spend desperate nights by the phone,
                I found a man named Richard (Dick) Decker,
                But he won’t give me his hairy pecker!
                Dick Decker’s pecker is reserved for farm beasts,
                I am beastly, yes! But my crack’s full of yeasts!

                So Dear Abby, that’s just a poetic summary… You can read about the Love of my Life, Richard Decker, here:
                Farmers kept refusing to let him have sex with their animals. So he sought revenge, authorities say.
                Decker the hairy pecker told me a summary of his story as below:
                Decker: “Can I have sex with your horse?”
                Farmer: “Lemme go ask the horse.”
                Farmer: “My horse says ‘neigh’!”
                And THAT was straight from the horse’s mouth! I’m not horsin’ around, here, no mare!

                So Richard Decker the hairy pecker told me that, apparently never even realizing just HOW DEEPLY it hurt me, that he was all interested in farm beasts, while totally ignoring MEEE!!

                So I thought maybe I could at least liven up my lonely-heart social life, by refining my common interests that I share with Richard Decker… I, too, like to have sex with horses!

                But Dear Abby, the horses ALL keep on saying “neigh” to my whinnying sexual advances!
                Some tell me that my whinnying is too whiny… Abby, I don’t know how to fix it!

                Dear Abby, please don’t tell me “get therapy”… I can’t afford it on my disability check!

                Now, along with my crack full of yeasts… I am developing anorexia! Some are calling me a “quarter pounder with cheese”, but they are NOT interested at ALL, in eating me!!! They will NOT snack on my crack!

                What will I DO, Dear Abby?!?!?

                -Desperately Seeking Horses, Men, or ANYTHING, in Fort Worth,
                Yours Truly,
                R Mac / Mary Stack / Tulpa / Mary’s Period / “.” / Satan

                1. YUM! Give me your tears. They are delicious.

                2. You do get anti-psychotic prescription meds though, right? Otherwise we would have to feel even more of your loser pain. 🙂

                  1. Wow, what literary talent and rapier wit! Let’s see if I can match or exceed it, with some OTHER brilliantly smart comments that I have created just now!

                    Fuck off, spaz!
                    You eat shit, you said so yourself!
                    You’re a racist Hitler-lover!
                    Take your meds!
                    That’s so retarded!
                    You’re a Marxist!
                    Your feet stink and you don’t love Trump!
                    Your source is leftist, so it must be false!
                    Trump rules and leftists drool!
                    You are SOOO icky-poo!
                    But Goo-Goo-Gah-Gah!

                    Wow, I am now 11 times as smart and original as you are!

                    1. Awwww, there must be such a massive, swollen islet of pain somewhere inside you for you to keep going like that… Fuck… Heaven.

                    2. 5.56.666… Look up “displaced aggression” to understand yourself. Your boyfriend slaps you around and won’t give you his dick up your ass quite exactly the right way, so you go kick your dog, and spread evil and filthy, hateful ideas on the internet. ‘Cause boyfriend is bigger and stronger than you, right? Why don’t you just LEAVE him?

                      Is it bringing you ANY happiness, evil asshole?

                    3. “Is it bringing you ANY happiness, evil asshole?:

                      LMFAO, defensive, defeated, whiny, on their knees. I can really see the tears. Bliss, Sqrlsy. Bliss.

                    4. LEAVE your Silly Savage who turned out to be a Brute, and find a SWEETER Silly Savage, silly fool!

                    5. LOL my silly savage will go away once you start taking your anti-psychotics again. If they don’t go away, ask your Doctor for a different prescription.

                      Having to fantasize about someone else’s partners on the internet out of visceral butthurt over being a degraded, disability-munching OBSOLETE byproduct of society. I can truly, sincerely feel your pain, loser. It is beautiful. 🙂

                    6. 5.56.666… So in ALL of You Glory as King of the Echo Chamber, Der TrumpfenFuhrer has STILL NOT made you Vice Emperor? Hasn’t even bothered to grab your pussy yet?

                      You might want to give UP on those fantasies! You don’t always get what you want! Try Joe Biden! He might at least sniff your hair!

                    7. How do you have internet access in the psych ward?

                    8. 5.56.666.sick-sick-sick accesses the internet from the psyche ward by spinning its head 360 degrees and more, repeatedly, and barfing green-gray spilled-split-pea soup all over everyone, and growling, “Satan PROMISED me internet access, and you’d better NOT get in MY way, dammit!!!”

                      5.56.666.sick-sick-sick might want to read the below…
                      A helpful book is to be found here: M. Scott Peck, Glimpses of the Devil

                      If “miracle happens here” and 5.56.666.sick-sick-sick gets an exorcism, it needs to recall, you MUST actually PAY your exorcist… Or you might get…

                      … Re-possessed!

                    9. I genuinely laughed at that, actually. I still have this weird condition that somehow I can’t be bothered by sqrlsys posts.

          3. He had sex with a 14 year old, it’s not like he sat in the Madam Chairwoman’s seat.

            1. The infamous “boots on the desk” crime of the century.

            2. You mean I have to try harder to meet progressive commenters standards because I am currently still too justified in being as nasty as possible? Well, I’m emulating kirkspeech pretty successfully on occasion. I am now trying to mix that in with some defeated, visceral bile of the life-without-success, libertarian-translator strain.

              I already know that I will not be able to reach the heights of sqrlsy without substances that can induce psychosis artificially, however.

              1. To copy the leftists here you have to act as a victim as well. See sarcasmic.

              2. Or, you could just not be an asshole.

                1. Delicious, fatjeff. Delicious.

                  1. I hear Jeffy got some exercise this week. It took him too long to drag his fat ass up off the couch, so he had to chase the ice cream truck down the block. So it was a departure from his usual exercise regimen, which consists of him reaching for the remote in occasion.

                    1. LOL I actually saw his twitter feed. He’s with planet fitness. But only since the pandemic started because now he can join via zoom.

                2. You really bring it out in people. I wonder why that is?

            3. They stole her beer too. How can you be so glib!

            4. Ok, now do Elvis Presley. Oh… oh he gets a free pass because 14 yr old Priscilla threatened to run away from home if her parents pressed charges. My bad. Free pass.
              Ok, now let’s do Yahweh (aka “god”)… oh, oh he gets a free pass, too, eh? My bad again.

        2. Him, not her. If that difference is still allowed.

    1. He’s not black. He’s Black.

      1. Black and Black are not the same thing. Unless you put the wrong black at the beginning of the sentence. And I’m supposed to take the matters of POC seriously at this point?

          1. This tickles me oddly.

    2. He put his own photo on Twitter to illustrate his own ID, so everyone would know what kind of crap Louisiana tried to pull.

  7. Is the State a publisher or just a platform?

    1. Can we cancel the State? If not, they are a platform.

      1. If everyone ignored it, it’d disappear.
        That can never happen though.

  8. The state made me take “Sexual Dynamo” off of my license. Something about perjury and blatant fraud.

    1. How about: #superstraight

    2. “Hung like a horse”

    3. The state forced me to put Sexual Dynamo on my license. I didn’t fight it in court. You can’t fight the troof.

      1. ‘Sexual dynamo’ was my nickname at college. Coincidentally, it’s also Buttplug’s nickname at Chuck E Cheese.

  9. Are the identification cards produced by a private company?

    1. Hand made by Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Humanity’s Platform.

  10. If banning guns will stop gun crime, wouldn’t banning sex registries stop sex crime?

    1. Banning alcohol stopped drinking so sure.

    2. You mean, if banning gun registries will stop gun crime….

  11. How about this: if someone is so damn dangerous that everyone needs to be warned about the crimes they committed, then they should stay locked up. Otherwise, let them get on with their lives.

  12. Shouldn’t this be an ex post facto case? Any time you go back after the conviction and add punishments, it should be treated as an ex post facto law. In fact, I think that’s the legal doctrine, that you can’t add punishments after the fact.

    Yeah, yeah, the Court pretends things like this aren’t really penalties. But convincing them to drop that pretense seems like a more promising approach than somehow convincing them that what is clearly the state’s own speech is really the perp’s speech being compelled.

  13. It should be noted that the author goes to great lengths to diminish the severity of certain sexual offences. Voyeurism, possession of child pornography, and incest (that what you call sexual relations with someone who you are “closely related to”) may be “non-violent” crimes by statues but it dose not make them any less serious or any less deserving of registration. A teacher having sex with a student? that should absolutely be illegal regardless of the students age.

    Pretty sick stuff bro

    1. All that you mentioned was NOT the reason for the creation of the sex offender registry. It was created for a small fraction of society that are psychopaths. They didn’t just rape their victims, they also MURDERED them. They’ll never be free to be on the registry that was made BECAUSE OF them.
      Student/teacher relationships are always ok when it’s a post pubescent male getting the hot teacher. When it’s the other way around, it’s a problem. It can be illegal without having to require registry on a Nazi-style hit list.
      And if we’re going to have a registry, considering states like FL leave people on it long after the person has passed away, then put Elvis Presley on it and put “god” on it. Or maybe you never read the bible (???)

  14. A symbol would not be any less compelled speech considering people can look that up online as well.

    Prince changed his name to a symbol but no one who sees that symbol thinks Michael Jackson.

    1. Someone who would take the time to look up and memorize the symbol would be likely to also take the time to look up a person’s name in the sex offender registry. Those who are obsessed with looking for a boogeyman can find out from the registry itself (with some more detail about the alleged crime), whether or not anything besides the name is on the driver’s license, but others will probably never find out as long as the offender doesn’t do something like apply for a job at a school.

      “Sex Offender” on the driver’s license means everyone who has to check ID will know, whether or not the information is relevant – but not know much, which means they are likely to assume a guy who was caught urinating in the alley is a child molester…

      1. That’s why I hated the logic argued by the lawyers who were supposed to be fighting these marks. They think we’ll not notice a “less conspicuous” mark. A mark is a mark.

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