INDIANAPOLIS | For the second time in less than a month, the Indiana Court of Appeals has declared it unconstitutional to require a Northwest Indiana man to register as a sex offender.
Terry Hough, 48, of Portage, was convicted of rape in 1993 in Pennsylvania. He served nearly four years in prison, completed his parole obligations in 1998 and then moved to Indiana.
Hough's conviction came prior to enactment of sex offender registration laws in either Indiana (1994) or Pennsylvania (1996). Porter Superior Judge Roger Bradford previously ruled forcing Hough to register would be an unconstitutional, retroactive punishment.
Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller appealed that finding. In a 3-0 ruling, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded Bradford got it right.
The appeals court acknowledged changes since made to Pennsylvania law would compel Hough's registration if he lived there. But as an Indiana resident, Hough is protected from retroactive punishment by the Indiana Constitution, the court ruled.
"To require that Hough register as a sex offender for a conviction pre-dating the enactment of (Indiana's Sex Offender Registration Act) would violate Indiana's constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws," Judge Paul Mathias wrote.
On Nov. 8, a separate three-judge Court of Appeals panel ruled Jerome Burton, of Hammond, convicted in 1987 of a sex crime in Illinois, is not required to register because his conviction came prior to creation of the Illinois and Indiana sex offender registries.
Zoeller spokesman Bryan Corbin said the attorney general's office is reviewing the rulings to decide whether to appeal to the state's highest court.
"The Indiana Supreme Court has held that the Indiana Constitution limits some of the circumstances in which the offender registration laws apply. So the courts are continuing to consider, case-by-case, the boundaries of those limits," Corbin said. "As state government's lawyer, the Indiana Attorney General's Office has a responsibility to help courts sort through these complex questions."