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Federal judge puts Colorado sex-offender registry in news again

It can hardly be argued that the Colorado sex-offender registry is a controversial, even contentious, law enforcement tool.

On the one hand, proponents understandably laud it. They say that it serves to promote safety by educating the public as to offenders, relevant details of their criminal past and their current proximity to specific neighborhoods, schools, malls, churches and other venues.

On the other hand, though, a wide-sourced band of critics point out that the registry is arguably punitive in nature. They contend that it perpetually stigmatizes many individuals who have already fully complied with criminal sentences imposed by the state. And they additionally assert that some unfortunate individuals should never have been placed on it in the first place.

That latter group of registry questioners was recently provided some ammunition for argument courtesy of a federal court. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch announced outright in a recent case that the constitutional rights of three plaintiffs -- all sex-offender registrants -- were violated by the registry.

The judge was expansive in language concerning the ruling, stating that registration requirements provide the public with information pursuant to which it has "the power to inflict punishments beyond those imposed through the courts, and to do so arbitrarily and with no notice."

As a result of the federal ruling, the affected county involved in the case -- Montrose County in western Colorado -- took its sex-offender list offline, terming it a preemptive act against potential lawsuits by registrants.

Will other counties follow suit?

It's hard to say. A media account of the matter notes, though, that although Matsch's ruling was narrow in scope (affecting only three plaintiffs), "the language he used certainly suggests the possibility for wider utilization."

Questions or concerns regarding the Colorado sex-offender registry can be directed to an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney.

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