405 F.3d 700 (8th Cir. 2005), 04-1568, Doe v. Miller

Docket Nº:04-1568.
Citation:405 F.3d 700
Party Name:John DOE, I, on their own behalf and as representatives of the class of all sex offenders in the State of Iowa; John Doe, II, on their own behalf and as representatives of the class of all sex offenders in the State of Iowa; John Doe, III, on their own behalf and as representatives of the class of all sex offenders in the State of Iowa, Appellees,
Case Date:April 29, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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405 F.3d 700 (8th Cir. 2005)

John DOE, I, on their own behalf and as representatives of the class of all sex offenders in the State of Iowa; John Doe, II, on their own behalf and as representatives of the class of all sex offenders in the State of Iowa; John Doe, III, on their own behalf and as representatives of the class of all sex offenders in the State of Iowa, Appellees,


Tom MILLER, Iowa Attorney General; Appellant.

J. Patrick White, as representatives of the class of all county attorneys in Iowa; Michael Wolf, as representatives of the class of all county attorneys in Iowa, Defendants.

No. 04-1568.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 29, 2005

Submitted: Nov. 4, 2004.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied June 30, 2005.[*]

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Gordon Eugene Allen, argued, Des Moines, IA (Thomas J. Miller, on the brief), for appellant.

Philip B. Mears, argued, Iowa City, IA (Randall Wilson, on the brief), for appellee.

Before RILEY, MELLOY, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.

COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

In 2002, in an effort to protect children in Iowa from the risk that convicted sex offenders may reoffend in locations close to their residences, the Iowa General Assembly passed, and the Governor of Iowa signed, a bill that prohibits a person convicted of certain sex offenses involving minors from residing within 2000 feet of a school or a registered child care facility. The district court declared the statute unconstitutional on several grounds and enjoined the Attorney General of Iowa and the ninety-nine county attorneys in Iowa from enforcing the prohibition.

Because we conclude that the Constitution of the United States does not prevent the State of Iowa from regulating the residency

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of sex offenders in this manner in order to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Iowa, we reverse the judgment of the district court. We hold unanimously that the residency restriction is not unconstitutional on its face. A majority of the panel further concludes that the statute does not amount to unconstitutional ex post facto punishment of persons who committed offenses prior to July 1, 2002, because the appellees have not established by the "clearest proof," as required by Supreme Court precedent, that the punitive effect of the statute overrides the General Assembly's legitimate intent to enact a nonpunitive, civil regulatory measure that protects health and safety.


Iowa Senate File 2197, now codified at Iowa Code § 692A. 2A, took effect on July 1, 2002. It provides that persons who have been convicted of certain criminal offenses against a minor, including numerous sexual offenses involving a minor, shall not reside within 2000 feet of a school or registered child care facility. Iowa Code § 692A. 2A(1)-(2). The law does not apply to persons who established a residence prior to July 1, 2002, or to schools or child care facilities that are newly located after July 1, 2002. Id. § 692A. 2A(4)(c). Violations of the statute are punishable as aggravated misdemeanors. Iowa Code § 692A. 2A(3). 1

Almost immediately after the law took effect, three named plaintiffs--sex offenders with convictions that predate the law's effective date--filed suit asserting that the statute is unconstitutional on its face. The district court certified their action as a class action, with a plaintiff class that includes all individuals to whom Iowa Code § 692A. 2A applies who are currently living in Iowa or who wish to move to Iowa, except for any person who currently is the subject of a prosecution under § 692A. 2A. The named plaintiffs, identified as various "John Does," had committed a range of sexual crimes, including indecent exposure, "indecent liberties with a child," sexual exploitation of a minor, assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, lascivious acts with a child, and second and third degree sexual abuse, all of which brought them within the provisions of the residency restriction. A defendant class, including all

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of Iowa's county attorneys, also was certified.

During a two-day bench trial, plaintiffs presented evidence concerning the enforcement of § 692A. 2A, including maps that had been produced by several cities and counties identifying schools and child care facilities and their corresponding restricted areas. After viewing these maps and hearing testimony from a county attorney, the district court found that the restricted areas in many cities encompass the majority of the available housing in the city, thus leaving only limited areas within city limits available for sex offenders to establish a residence. In smaller towns, a single school or child care facility can cause all of the incorporated areas of the town to be off limits to sex offenders. The court found that unincorporated areas, small towns with no school or child care facility, and rural areas remained unrestricted, but that available housing in these areas is "not necessarily readily available." Doe v. Miller, 298 F.Supp.2d 844, 851 (S.D.Iowa 2004). 2

Plaintiffs also presented evidence of their individual experiences in seeking to obtain housing that complies with the 2000-foot restriction. Several of the plaintiffs, including John Does III, IV, XV, and XVIII, have friends or relatives with whom they would like to live, but whose homes are within 2000 feet of a school or child care facility. Many, such as John Does VII, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, and XVIII, live in homes that are currently compliant, either because they were established prior to July 1, 2002, or because the homes are outside the 2000-foot restricted areas. These plaintiffs, however, testified that they would like to be able to move into a restricted area. Still others, John Does II, VI, VIII, IX, XV, and XVI, are living in non-compliant residences that they wish to maintain.

Plaintiffs testified that in many cases they had a difficult time obtaining housing that was not within 2000 feet of a school or child care center. John Doe VII testified that he investigated 40 residences, but was unable to find any housing that would not place him in violation of § 692A. 2A. The evidence also showed, however, that while the residency restriction may have exacerbated a housing problem for the plaintiffs, not all of their difficulty was caused by the statute. For example, John Doe II had difficulty finding housing in part because of his credit problems. John Doe XIV testified that the only available compliant housing in his hometown, Waterloo, was too expensive, so he and his wife purchased a rural home about 45 miles away. The mother of John Doe IV made efforts to help her son find housing, and she testified that she was able to find two potential residences for her son, but neither residence had any vacant units. John Doe VI was renting an apartment in compliance with § 692A. 2A, but had to move out when the landlord decided that he did not want to rent to a sex offender. Similarly, John Does VIII and XI each found at least one possible compliant apartment, but their applications were denied because of their

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criminal records. In apparent contrast to this testimony from the plaintiffs, Dudley Allison, a parole and probation officer, testified that while the statute made it more difficult for sex offenders to find housing, "virtually everyone" among the covered parolees and probationers whom he supervised between July 2002 and July 2003 was able to locate housing in compliance with the statute. (T. Tr. at 285).

In addition to evidence regarding the burden that § 692A. 2A places on sex offenders, both plaintiffs and defendants presented expert testimony about the potential effectiveness of a residency restriction in preventing offenses against minors. The State presented the testimony of Mr. Allison, a parole and probation officer who specialized in sex offender supervision. Allison described the process of treating sex offenders and his efforts at preventing recidivism by identifying the triggers for the original offense, and then imposing restrictions on the residences or activities of the offender. According to Allison, restrictions on the proximity of sex offenders to schools or other facilities that might create temptation to reoffend are one way to minimize the risk of recidivism. In the parole and probation context, Allison also has authority to limit offenders' activities in more specific ways, and he testified that he attempts to remove temptation by preventing offenders from working in jobs where they would have contact with potential victims or from living near parks or other areas where children might spend time unsupervised. In addition to the limits that he imposes on offenders under his supervision, Allison also testified that there is "a legitimate public safety concern" in where unsupervised sex offenders reside. In Allison's view, reoffense is "a potential danger forever."

The State also introduced the transcript of hearing testimony by Dr. William McEchron, a psychologist with a general practice that includes sex offender patients. Like Allison, Dr. McEchron testified that there is no cure for sex offenders and that "there are never any guarantees that they might not reoffend." In his view, the "biggest risk is what's going on inside the individual," but reducing the opportunity and the temptation to reoffend is extremely important to treatment. He explained that because there are "very high rates of re-offense for sex offenders who had offended against children," he believed it would be appropriate to restrict places where sex offenders might come into contact with children. He thought the appropriateness of such a restriction was...

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