The question of whether sex offenders must register in New Mexico for crimes they committed in other states is making its way through the courts again.

Eight plaintiffs, each listed as “John Doe,” have filed a petition in U.S. District Court in New Mexico, alleging the state Department of Public Safety and five county sheriffs failed to provide them due process in determining whether their out-of-state offense is “equivalent” to a New Mexico crime that would require them to register in this state.

Albuquerque-based lawyers Susan Burgess-Farrell and Barrett G. Porter, and the nonprofit Liberty and Justice Coalition, filed the lawsuit in late October on behalf of the “John Does” who already have been required to register as sex offenders in New Mexico.



The petition says the sheriffs and the Department of Public Safety, which is responsible for operating and maintaining New Mexico’s sex offender registry, failed to set up a procedural due process to properly review their cases in a timely manner.

“No notice,” the petition says. “No right to discover the evidence relied upon. No hearing in which to present evidence. No neutral decision maker. No mechanism for appealing the decision.”

Several of the plaintiffs have been waiting for a determination on a “translation” list for “several years,” the court document says. Meanwhile, they risk loss of job and housing opportunities, damage to their reputation and must report to the local sheriff every 90 days, according to the petition. Offenders are also subject to online publication of their crimes.

Under New Mexico law, a person convicted of any of 12 sex offenses or who is convicted of an “equivalent” offense must register with the sheriff of the county in which the offender lives. Failing to register is a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico, which can lead to an 18-month prison sentence.

Ashley Reymore-Cloud, a lawyer for the nonprofit Liberty and Justice Coalition, said this lawsuit is not the first to address state issues with “translation of equivalent crimes” for out-of-state sex offenders.

“There have been cases litigated that told them they need to provide this again and again, and they still aren’t providing due process,” Reymore-Cloud said, citing a 2012 state Supreme Court decision that says the Department of Public must prove that sex offender crimes in other states equal a crime in New Mexico.

Herman Lovato, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said in an email there are 3,208 registered sex offenders on the New Mexico registry “which includes 303 individuals awaiting a translation. Since February 2019, the sex offender registry unit has processed 331 translations.”

He said the department is following state statute guidelines and has no plans to change the way such cases are processed. He added the department is committed to “ensuring convicted sex offenders comply with New Mexico statute and federal law.”

The eight John Does range from a man convicted and sentenced in 2008 for sexual assault who successfully completed nine years of probation as of June 2018 to a man convicted of “lewd conduct” with a minor in California in 1993 who said Valencia County sheriffs routinely show up at his house in “sex offender” gear and park outside his house.

He said he has been on the waiting list for more than 10 years.

One man, whose sexual offenses took place when he was a juvenile, was required to register as a sex offender in New Mexico even though New Mexico law does not require such registration for offenses committed by juveniles.

The petition asks the court to find that the defendants failed to set up a fair, constitutional due process for the cases and to remove the plaintiff’s names and other information from all published sex offender registries until due process is provided for each of them.

It also asks the court to bar the defendants from enforcing any laws pertaining to registration until that due process is completed.

Staff reporter Danielle Prokop contributed to this story.

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General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(2) comments

William Craig

Remember that Jefe Epstein was never required to register in NM, although FL and NY required him to register after his 2008 convictions in FL for soliciting a prostitute and procuring an underage girl for prostitution — maybe there isn't an "equivalent" crime in NM.

Mark Kendrick

Based on what little information is contained here I find it difficult to have any sympathy for these people, don’t pretend you were the victim. I’m sure there are cases out there that could be looked at but come on let’s be real here

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