DENVER — Colorado has decided to appeal a federal judge's ruling that the state violated the constitutional rights of three men by requiring them to register as sex offenders, the state's attorney general said Wednesday.
Cynthia Coffman said she'll appeal in coming weeks to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which maintains the state's registry.
U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch ruled Aug. 31 that the Colorado registry exposes offenders to punishment from the public and inhibits their ability to find work or housing long after they've completed their sentences.
In Colorado, offenders' names, addresses, photos and other identifying features are posted on a state website, based on offenders' registrations with local law enforcement.
Matsch's ruling had no immediate effect for three offenders who are plaintiffs in the case who want to remove their information from the registry. But their attorney, Alison Ruttenberg, has said Colorado offenders can use Matsch's decision to ask state judges to remove them from the registry or to defend themselves against charges of failing to register.
Ruttenberg also said an unsuccessful appeal to the 10th Circuit by the state could be cited in other states.
"This is an important issue where the law is rapidly changing, and I look forward to the opportunity to brief these issues to the Tenth Circuit," Ruttenberg said Wednesday.
Coffman said the U.S. Supreme Court has found that sex offender registration laws protect the public, especially victims, and are not cruel and unusual punishment of offenders. She noted that the three plaintiffs in the Colorado case had committed sexual assault against minors — one against a 3-year-old child.
"Colorado, its forty-nine 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," she said in a prepared statement.
The offenders' lawsuit argued that the public information makes it difficult for offenders to find jobs and housing. Routine visits by police and flyers posted on doors clearly identify them as registered sex offenders, the suit said.