Sex offender classification cruel and unusual punishment for convicted man? Ohio Supreme Court to decide

The Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in a case that may impact the state's use of the sex offender label in certain circumstances. The case involved Travis Blankenship, who was convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor in violation of R.C.2907.04(A) in 2012. At the age of 21 Blankenship had engaged in consensual sexual relations with a 15-year-old girl. He entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to serve six months in jail, of which he served twelve days, and ordered to register as a Tier II sex offender under Ohio law. This classification requires him to register with the sheriff's office in the counties where he resides and is employed and verify this information every 180 days for 25 years.

Blankenship alleges that the mandatory requirement to register as a sex-offender under the statute serves as cruel and unusual punishment in his case. A presentence investigation conducted by a psychologist hired by Blankenship's attorney indicated that Blankenship was not a sexual offender and that his risk of offending again was not high. Blankenship argues that in light of this and other circumstances in his case the mandatory sex-offender classification is a punishment that is grossly disproportionate to the crime and violates the Eighth Amendment.

The State argues that Blankenship was highly culpable, and that his punishment was proportionate, citing his age and his predatory "grooming behavior" with the victim in support of these claims. The state also asserts that requiring him to register as a sex offender serves as appropriate "retribution and deterrence."

A decision is expected in several weeks. For more information about this case, see this article from The Columbus Dispatch. The online docket is available, here.

Photo credit: Analogue Kid, via Wikimedia Commons