Indiana Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Sex Offender Prohibited From Contact With His Own Children
by Christopher Zoukis
David Bleeke was convicted in 2005 of residential entry, attempted criminal deviant conduct and sexual battery for entering an adult female's apartment and attempting to digitally penetrate her vagina. He was sentenced to 10 years, but was paroled after serving three.
As part of his parole, Bleeke was subject to various and sundry conditions stemming from his sex offense. He was prohibited from, among other things, any contact with his son, being within 1,000 feet of any place where children congregated, establishing an intimate relationship with an adult and being in possession of any item which might attract a child.
Bleeke filed a lawsuit in federal court in which he alleged that his parole conditions were unconstitutional. The court granted him an injunction, preventing the enforcement of the condition which prohibited him from associating with his own children until the parole board made an individualized determination as to the need for such a condition. The parole board then held a special hearing on the matter, and despite receiving no evidence that Bleeke was a danger to any child, re-imposed the condition.
Bleeke subsequently filed a similar complaint in Indiana state court. The trial court struck some conditions, including the condition which disallowed him to associate with his children, but upheld several others. Bleeke then appealed.
The appellate court went out of its way to protest the tendency of Indiana's statutory scheme to automatically classify most sex offenders, including Bleeke, as dangerous child molesters. The court found a liberty interest subject to due process in such a classification, noting that federal courts "have recognized that prisoners or parolees have a liberty interest under the Due Process Clause in freedom from stigmatization that occurs through classification and attendant conditions imposed upon a person who was not convicted of an offense within the classification."
In regards to several other child-related conditions, the court found no evidence to support their imposition on Bleeke, whose crimes did not involve children in any way. That did not stop the parole board from insisting that the conditions were necessary for the safety of the community. The court rejected this argument.
"The sum total of the Parole Board's argument is that all sex offenders, no matter what offense they committed, no matter what circumstances surrounded commission of the offense, and no matter whether they are a danger to children, must be treated as child molesters and be controlled by parole conditions that are designed to govern child molesters," wrote the court.
Several other conditions did not survive constitutional scrutiny. Condition 8, which prohibited Bleeke from visiting businesses which sell sexual devices or aids was struck down as overbroad, as it could extend to drug stores. Condition 15, which prohibited "cruising activity" was struck down as vague, because who knows what that is. Condition 17, which prohibited Bleeke from establishing an intimate relationship with an adult was vague as well, because it's possible to have an "intimate" relationship with a close friend. And Condition 19, which prohibited Bleeke from possessing anything that might attract children, was also vague, as such prohibited items could include kites, balloons or chocolate bars.
Case: Bleeke v. State, Indiana Court of Appeals, Case No. 02A05-1201-PL-25 (January 23, 2013).
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Related legal case
Bleeke v. State
|Cite||Indiana Court of Appeals, Case No. 02A05-1201-PL-25 (January 23, 2013)|