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Court says state must fix offender registry

– Indiana must provide a better way for people listed on the state’s Sex and Violent Offender Registry to correct erroneous information, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stemmed from a lawsuit filed by a southern Indiana man who said he was unable to correct the registry after it wrongly identified him as a sexual predator and as having committed a crime he never committed.

The state had no official channel or administrative means allowing David Schepers to correct the misinformation, Judge Diane Wood wrote in the ruling for the three-judge panel. Schepers turned to informal channels – including telephoning officials with the Department of Correction, which operates the registry – with no success.

Schepers was added to the registry after being convicted of two counts of child exploitation in Orange County in 2006. Those convictions do not make him a sexual predator under Indiana law.

In response to the lawsuit, the department created a process whereby incarcerated inmates can correct errors to their registry entries before they are posted. But Woods noted that Schepers wasn’t imprisoned and therefore would not have had that opportunity.

“Although any kind of placement on the sex offender registry is stigmatizing, we agree with the district court that erroneous labeling as a sexually violent predator is ‘further stigmatizing to (one’s) reputation,’ ” Wood wrote.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to U.S. District Court in Indianapolis for further proceedings.

The appeals panel asked Schepers, the state agency and their attorneys to come up with a process whereby people listed on the registry can correct errors.

The American Civil Liberties Union represented Schepers.

“The Court found that the only way to guard against stigmatizing errors is to afford minimal due process,” Ken Falk, the legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said in a news release.