Sex offender law not constitutional

Friday, November 23, 2001

HONOLULU -- Hawaii's Supreme Court has struck down the state's sex offender registration law, declaring it unconstitutional.

The high court said the state's "Megan's Law" improperly allows authorities to notify the public about the location of sex offenders, even if the offenders have not received notice or the chance to argue that they pose no danger.

A state Web site naming sex offenders and the places they live and work removed the listings after Wednesday's ruling.

All 50 states and the federal government have passed sex-offender registration laws since 1994, when 7-year-old Megan Kanka was beaten, raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender who lived near her New Jersey home.

Eto Bani, who pleaded no-contest to fourth-degree sex assault in Hawaii in 1998, had challenged the state's registration law.

Bani argued the law's public notification provision violated his rights to due process, privacy, and equal protection. He said it constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle criticized the decision, calling it "one more piece of evidence that Hawaii may be suffering from a runaway state Supreme Court."

State officials will be barred from community notification until the Legislature creates a hearing process in which sex offenders can argue they are not dangerous.

Gov. Ben Cayetano said the law needs to be fixed in next year's Legislative session.

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