REGISTRATION LAWS AND THE 13TH AMENDMENT

Ex-felon registration laws, and the sex offender registration laws in particular, force ex-felons to help the government maintain a data bank containing the felon's personal information. The government could have retained private business to perform that function but did not do so, the cost would have been enormous. Instead, the government imposed a duty of self-reporting on the individual felon. The courts have held that ex-felon registration laws are not new punishment for an old crime and, therefore, may be retroactively applied without violating the ex post facto clause. E.g., Smith v. Doe. These registration laws, at least initially, implicate the 13th Amendment, which provides:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation


"Labor" is defined as work of any type, including mental exertion. Black's Law. The registration laws extort physical and mental exertion from the individual who is obligated, by the threat of imprisonment, to physically register and live thereafter within the confines of the supplied information, within a 48 hour margin of error.

I submit that the court's determination that the registration laws are not punishment is the very reason they cannot be constitutionally imposed.

PUNISHMENT OR CIVIL OBLIGATION?

Sex offender registration laws require Registrants to supply the State with verified data for publication on a web site devoted to public safety. The initial debate over these laws questioned whether they were non-punitive civil regulations or amounted to a form of punishment which could not be retroactively applied. See, Smith v. Doe, 538 US 84 (2003). The court sided with the states in that case, concluding that the registration laws are non-punitive civil regulations. Subsequently grouping the registration laws with other compelled civil obligations looks like this:

(1) Witness Attendance (compensated)
(2) Jury Duty (compensated)
(3) Depositions (compensated)
(4) Sex Offender Registration (not compensated)

It should be easy to identify the proverbial square peg in the above grouping. It is number 4, sex offender registration, the only civil obligation for which compensation is not presently awarded. Moreover, grouping registration laws with punitive consequences of conviction looks like this:

(1) Probation (not compensated)
(2) Prison (not compensated)
(3) Parole (not compensated)
(4) Lifetime Supervision (not compensated)
(5) Community Service (not compensated)
(6) Sex Offender Registration (not compensated)

Sex offender registration laws cannot honestly be deemed civil unless Registrants are awarded compensation for their services. A denial of reasonable compensation would clearly exploit an identifiable subclass and arrange the registration laws nicely within the punitive side of the equation, in conflict with the Supreme Court decision in Smith.