Updated: November 9, 2012 11:25PM
INDIANAPOLIS — A man who was convicted of sexual assault in Illinois about 25 years ago isn’t required to register as a sex offender in Indiana, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.
Jerome Burton, 46, can’t be prosecuted for failing to register because he was convicted before either state enacted its sex offender registry, the court ruled Thursday. Burton, of Hammond, had been charged with two felony counts of failure to register as a sex offender.
Burton was convicted in Illinois in 1987 of aggravated criminal sexual assault. In 1996, that state enacted a law requiring sex offenders to register and Burton was convicted under that law in 2003 and again in 2007.
He later moved to Indiana where, in 2009, he was convicted again, this time under a 2006 Indiana law requiring those who have been convicted of a sexual offense elsewhere to sign up to the Indiana sex offenders’ registry, court records show.
The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled that Indiana’s 1994 sex offender registry law can’t be applied retroactively, as was done in Illinois. The appeals court dismissed the state attorneys’ claim that excusing Burton from registering in Indiana could turn the state into a haven for sex offenders, saying the high court’s decisions apply equally to those convicted elsewhere.
“We are dealing only with those offenders who committed crimes in states which had no registration requirements at the time of the offenses,” Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote.
A spokesman for the Indiana attorney general’s office said legislators had held study committee hearings this year to consider changes to the state sex offender registry in light of recent court decisions that have limited its enforcement.
“The Indiana Attorney General’s Office will continue to provide advice to our clients during this review to ensure the registry remains a useful tool that parents can use to protect their children from offenders and that the public can have confidence in,” Bryan Corbin said in an email.
He said the agency had not yet decided whether to file an appeal with the state Supreme Court.