Coffman to appeal ruling that Colorado’s sex-offender registry is unconstitutional

Author: Joey Bunch - September 13, 2017 - Updated: September 13, 2017

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman addresses the news media in this 2015 file photo. On Oct. 19, 2016, Coffman announced her office would fund sexual assault prevention programs at six state colleges and universities. (Courtesy photo CBS4)Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman addresses the news media in 2015. (Via CBS4)

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said Wednesday she’ll appeal a federal court ruling that Colorado’s sex-offender registry is unconstitutional.

“As attorney general, protecting victims is one of the most critically important parts of my job,” Coffman said in a statement. “Colorado, its 49 sister states and the federal government all have sex-offender registry laws in place to inform the public and protect them from sexual offenders who have been found guilty of sexual crimes, including heinous crimes against children.

“Survivors of sexual assault are forever impacted by the trauma they have experienced, and we must never lose sight of the responsibility we have to prevent the victimization of more innocent people.”

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch ruled this month that publicizing the crimes indefinitely amounts to additional punishment “inflicted not by the state but by their fellow citizens.” In his view, doing so violates the constitutional ban against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The three plaintiffs in this case before Matsch are convicted sex offenders who committed sexual assault against minors, in one instance on a 3-year-old child, Coffman said Wednesday.

“I am surprised by the court’s decision and think the ruling contains several legal errors which we will now address on appeal,” Coffman said.

The ruling did not allow convicted sex offenders, including those in the lawsuit, to be automatically removed from the registry, which Colorado Bureau of Investigation continues to maintain.

Offenders’ names, addresses, photos and other identification based on offenders’ registrations with local law enforcement are posted on a state website. The lawsuit argued that the information makes it difficult for offenders to find jobs and housing, on top of the sentences they served that were handed down by the courts.

In addition routine visits by police and flyers posted on neighbors’ doors clearly identify them as registered sex offenders also imposes additional punishment, the lawsuit contends.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.