ACA.supremecourt.070419

When a Lafayette Parish man removed the words “sex offender” from his state-issued ID, law enforcement officers said Louisiana law had been broken. A local judge saw things differently.

Judge Patrick Michot recently ruled in favor of Tazin Hill, 42, and against the state in the case. Hill's prior addresses have included Duson and New Roads, according to court files.

The local district attorney’s office contended that Hill broke the law by altering his ID, which the state says must bear the words “sex offender” in all capital letters and in orange type. The altered ID was revealed Dec. 5, 2016, when Hill attempted to update his address information at the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office.

According to the case file, "The words 'sex offender' were cut out from the identification card and 'visible transparent tape had been placed over it.' "

Stutes said the charge concerned “intentional alteration” of the state-issued and mandated ID. The defendant, he said, filed a motion to quash and said the state provision was unconstitutional.

But a recent KATC news report said the public defender assigned to the case countered that Hill’s initial sex crime was committed 22 years ago, that his sentence was complete and that to re-integrate into society, Hill ought not be saddled with the “sex offender” tag on his ID. He cited the 1st Amendment and federal case law, KATC said.

The Lafayette Sheriff's Office website says Hill was convicted of carnal knowledge of a juvenile in 2010 and released in 2013.

District Attorney Keith Stutes said the law governing the state-issued ID for sex offenders is clear and valid. Prosecutors contended that, "The public has a right to know with whom they are dealing" when they see a state-issued ID card.

Stutes said it would take a higher court to decide the matter, which otherwise could have statewide application. He said the decision to appeal rests with Attorney General Jeff Landry.

“Typically, when the constitutionality of a statute is called into question, we notify the AG’s office,” the district attorney said. “My impression is they will be taking this matter up.”

In an issued statement, the Attorney General's Office said Thursday, "We can confirm that we are seeking judicial review in this case."

The public defender’s office did not return several calls for comment.

Cases that require action under the State Sex Offender & Child Predator Registry fall under three categories.

  • Tier 1 cases involve cases such as indecent behavior with juveniles, crimes against nature and voyeurism. They require registration for 15 years, State Police say.
  • Tier 2 crimes involve a “sexual offense against a victim who is a minor” and require sex registry registration for 25 years. Such crimes include oral sexual battery, pornography involving juveniles and computer-aided solicitation of a minor.
  • Tier 3 crimes involve “aggravated offenses” such as first-degree rape, aggravated rape, forcible rape and human trafficking. Convictions for those offense call for lifetime registration.

Stutes said he was uncertain which tier Hill’s initial sex offense fell under.

LSU law professor Ken Levy said the case was “interesting” and said the Michot was likely “perfectly within his rights.” He said the state’s requirement for declaring sex offender status represented a regulation and was not necessarily part of Hill's punishment.

He said the law is “not meant to stigmatize” the offender but “to protect the public.”

“If your record is clean, you are allowed to do that,” he said.

Levy said the initial criminal charge was decided by another judge years ago; Michot’s decision involves only the new case. “It’s not like he changed the initial jail sentence,” he said.

Email Ken Stickney at kstickney@theadvocate.com.