An Act of Conscience?
Doe v. Miller: No Place to Live

No Right to Live Near Schools, Or Even in a City

Miami Beach wants to enact a law that would prevent designated sexual predators from living within 2,000 feet of a school.  Because of the town's layout, this would preclude them from living in the town.  Today a unanimous three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit upheld Iowa City's similar prohibition against numerous constitutional challenges, Doe v. Miller, No. 04-1568 (8th Cir. Apr. 29, 2005), though the panel split on the Ex Post Facto Clause challenge.  Slip op. at 31-36.

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 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.