Man sues Dallas, police over forced sex offender registration - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Man sues Dallas, police over forced sex offender registration

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It's taken him more than a dozen years, but a man once convicted as a sex offender has won a decision that leaves him free of sex offender reporting and registration requirements.

Now, Lonnie Chalmers hopes to win a $3 million civil rights violation lawsuit against the City of Dallas and police.

"I pled guilty to sexual assault on December 27th, 1996," said Chalmers.

In 1996, Judge Mark Tolle sentenced Chalmers to 10 years in prison, but set aside the prison sentence and placed him on five years' probation. Then in 2000, Judge Robert Francis granted Chalmers' early release him from probation.

"His exact words to me were, ‘After you've done everything I've asked you to do, I'm gonna give you what you want,' and he gave me relief," said Chalmers.

On March 31, 2000, Judge Francis set aside Chalmers' conviction.

"I was given judicial clemency," said Chalmers. "Judicial clemency means I don't have a reportable conviction. If I don't have a reportable conviction, they have no basis to force me to register."

But Chalmers was required to continue registering and reporting with Dallas Police.

"I've been complying with registration requirements because I had to, but the whole time, I've been challenging the whole situation in the courts," said Chalmers.

Chalmers filed lawsuits in both state and federal courts.

Eleven lawsuits later, he won and was removed from both the Dallas Police and DPS sex offender registries.

Now, as part of his civil lawsuit against the city and police, he says his rights were violated for the 13 years he was forced to register.

"This definitely brings up some interesting constitutional issues," said attorney Chad Ruback, who isn't involved the case.

"The issue is not necessarily what he thinks should have occurred or not occurred as much as what he's going to have to prove, and the hurdle he is going to have to surmount in a civil rights case," said attorney Victor Vital, also not a part of the case.

Chalmers, who earned four degrees while on probation, says he does have some regrets.

"Not knowing how to follow the rules mandated to us by society, you know, we grow up thinking we can do what we want to do, and I regret that," he said.

Once a person is labeled a sex offender, that title usually follows them. However, at the time Chalmers received deferred adjudication, state law apparently did not prohibit judges from affording someone judicial clemency.

In 1999, the Texas Legislature went back and amended the sex offender registration laws to prevent a judge from setting aside a conviction in a case where sex offender registration is required.

However, that was going forward, and did not apply retroactively.

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