Meinders v. Weber

Decision Date05 January 2000
Docket NumberNo. 20689.,20689.
Citation604 N.W.2d 248
PartiesJames H. MEINDERS, Petitioner and Appellant, v. Douglas WEBER, Warden of the South Dakota Penitentiary, Appellee.
CourtSouth Dakota Supreme Court

Lisa Hansen Marso of Boyce, Murphy, McDowell & Greenfield, L.L.P., Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Attorneys for petitioner and appellant.

Mark Barnett, Attorney General, Frank Geaghan, Assistant Attorney General, Pierre, South Dakota, Attorneys for appellee.

KONENKAMP, Justice (on reassignment).

[¶ 1.] James Meinders appeals the denial of habeas corpus relief, asserting that (1) South Dakota's sex offender registration statutes violate the ex post facto clauses of both our state and federal constitutions and constitute cruel and unusual punishment when retroactively applied to him; (2) the amended good time statutes (SDCL 24-2-12 and 24-2-18) violate the ex post facto clauses of both the state and federal constitutions; (3) his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination was violated by the state penitentiary's sex offender treatment program requirement that he admit his sex offense; and (4) his trial attorney was ineffective. We affirm on all issues.


[¶ 2.] When they met in early 1989, A.G. was fourteen years old, and Meinders was nineteen. She told him her age, explaining that she had been attending junior high school, but "just quit." A.G. was a troubled adolescent. She was not getting along with her parents. She later said she knew Meinders was nineteen, but misled her parents about his age. Her parents had already expressed concern about her relationship with him. She knew they would disapprove if they knew his real age. In March 1989, Meinders and A.G. began having sexual intercourse. A.G. turned fifteen on March 20, 1989.

[¶ 3.] In April 1989, A.G. ran away. Police found her and Meinders in Watertown, South Dakota. She returned home, promising her parents she would have no contact with Meinders. But she continued to see him nonetheless when her parents were not home. A.G. ran away again in June to live with Meinders and his parents. She and Meinders had separate bedrooms, but they continued their sexual activities while his parents were at work or sleeping. A.G. did not contact her parents until mid-August. Finally, she called her mother to say that Meinders had hit her. She wanted to come home. Her mother arrived at Meinders' home accompanied by the police. A.G. then told the authorities about her sex acts with Meinders.

[¶ 4.] Meinders was indicted for statutory rape (SDCL 22-22-1(5)) and sexual contact (SDCL 22-22-7).1 In July 1990, a jury convicted him of statutory rape. He was sentenced to fifteen years in the penitentiary with twelve years suspended. After serving two and a half years, he was released. Approximately twenty months later, he was returned to the penitentiary after being convicted of grand theft. The suspended portion of his fifteen-year sentence was revoked. Meinders petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus relief. The habeas court denied his petition and he appeals.

[¶ 5.] Habeas corpus applicants bear the initial burden of proof to establish a colorable claim for relief. Jenner v. Dooley, 1999 SD 20, ¶ 11, 590 N.W.2d 463, 468. These proceedings are no substitute for direct appeal: as a collateral attack on a final judgment, the remedy is limited. Id. We review habeas factual findings under the clearly erroneous standard and legal conclusions under the de novo standard. Lodermeier v. Class, 1996 SD 134, ¶ 3, 555 N.W.2d 618, 621-22 (citing Loop v. Class, 1996 SD 107, ¶ 11, 554 N.W.2d 189, 191 (citations omitted)).

Registration for Convicted Sex Offenders

[¶ 6.] In 1994, our Legislature enacted laws requiring registration for convicted sex offenders. SDCL 22-22-30, et seq. Registration applied initially to those convicted of specified sex offenses on or after July 1, 1994. 1994 S.D. Session Laws, ch. 174, § 2. No public access was permitted to registration information. Furthermore, registration was not required for all sex offenses. It did not apply to the offense of statutory rape. See 1994 S.D. Session Laws, ch. 174, § 1.2 [¶ 7.] A series of well-publicized tragedies illustrated the futility of sex offender registration without attendant public notification. One of the most notorious incidents occurred in New Jersey. There, in July 1994, seven year old Megan Kanka was raped and strangled. The man who confessed to murdering her lived across the street from her family. He had two previous convictions for sex offenses against little girls. Neither Megan's parents nor anyone else in the neighborhood was aware of his criminal history. Public outrage led to the passage of "Megan's Law," as it came to be called, that not only required sex offenders to register with local law enforcement, but also provided for varying degrees of public dissemination of registrant information. In the same year, Congress passed the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act of 1994. 42 U.S.C. § 14071 (1994). The Act conditioned the availability of federal crime prevention funds on a state's creation of a sex offender registration system and a community notification program. Today all fifty states require some form of mandatory sex offender registration.

[¶ 8.] In 1995, South Dakota enacted its own version of "Megan's Law" by amending the sex offender registration statutes to include a public access provision. The Legislature also amended the statutes to have retroactive application. 1995 S.D. Session Laws, ch. 123, § 2. SDCL 22-22-31 now provides:

Any person residing in this state who has been convicted whether upon a verdict or plea of guilty or a plea of nolo contendere, or who has received a suspended imposition of sentence which has not been discharged pursuant to § 23A-27-14 prior to July 1, 1995, for commission of a sex crime, as defined in § 22-22-30,3 or any person who is a juvenile fifteen years of age or older adjudicated of a sex crime, as defined in subdivisions 22-22-30(l) or (9), or of felony sexual contact, as defined in § 22-22-7.2, shall, within ten days of coming into any county to reside or temporarily domicile for more than thirty days, register with the chief of police of the municipality in which the person resides, or, if no chief of police exists, then with the sheriff of the county in which the person resides. A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, any subsequent violation is a Class 6 felony. Any person whose sentence is discharged under § 23A-27-14 after July 1, 1995, shall forward a certified copy of such formal discharge by certified mail to the Division of Criminal Investigation and to local law enforcement where the person is then registered under this section.
Upon receipt of such notice, the person shall be removed from the sex offender registry open to public inspection and shall be relieved of further registration requirements under this section.

SDCL 22-22-40 provides, in part:

Registration records collected by local law enforcement agencies pursuant to this chapter, registration lists provided to local law enforcement by the Division of Criminal Investigation, and records collected by institutions pursuant to § 22-22-38 for those persons required to register under the provisions of § 22-22-30 to 22-22-39 are public records as provided in chapter 1-27.

The question before us today is whether these statutes violate the ex post facto prohibitions in our state and federal constitutions.

1. Retroactive Application of Sex Offender Registration Laws

[¶ 9.] The United States Constitution declares that "[n]o State shall ... pass any ... ex post facto [l]aw." U.S.Const. art. I, § 10, cl. 1; see art. I, § 9, cl. 3. The South Dakota Constitution has an equivalent provision. S.D.Const. art. VI, § 12. These constitutional prohibitions bar retroactive application of any law inflicting greater punishment for a crime than the law originally rendered at the time the crime was committed. Calder v. Bull, 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 386, 390, 1 L.Ed. 648, 650 (1798). The prohibition fulfils two principles: (1) legislative enactments must give fair warning of their effect, thus allowing reliance on the current law until it is legislatively changed; and (2) laws cannot arbitrarily or vindictively punish persons for past acts that were not criminal or were less criminal when they were committed. See Miller v. Florida, 482 U.S. 423, 429-30, 107 S.Ct. 2446, 2451, 96 L.Ed.2d 351, 359-60 (1987) (discussing the two traditional purposes of Ex Post Facto Clause); Weaver v. Graham, 450 U.S. 24, 28-29, 101 S.Ct. 960, 964, 67 L.Ed.2d 17, 22-23 (1981) (explaining the ex post facto prohibition).

[¶ 10.] The prohibition against ex post facto laws applies to penal statutes imposing criminal sanctions. Collins v. Youngblood, 497 U.S. 37, 41, 110 S.Ct. 2715, 2718, 111 L.Ed.2d 30, 38 (1990) (citations omitted); Lewis v. Class, 1997 SD 67, ¶ 16, 565 N.W.2d 61, 64 (citations omitted) (prohibition applies to statutes that exact penalties). Ex post facto claims are questions of law reviewable de novo. Id. ¶ 9, 565 N.W.2d at 63 (citing State v. Karp, 527 N.W.2d 912 (S.D.1995)). Challenges to the constitutionality of a statute are not lightly met:

"There is a strong presumption that the laws enacted by the [L]egislature are constitutional and that presumption is rebutted only when it clearly, palpably and plainly appears that the statute violates a provision of the constitution." Further, the party challenging the constitutionality of a statute bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the statute violates a state or federal constitutional provision.

Sedlacek v. South Dakota Teener Baseball Program, 437 N.W.2d 866, 868 (S.D.1989) (quoting Oien v. City of Sioux Falls, 393 N.W.2d 286, 289 (S.D.1986) (other citations omitted)).

[¶ 11.] Meinders asserts that South Dakota's...

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