KENNEWICK — A judge in Washington state has ruled that the personal information of low-level sex offenders should not be released to the public.
Benton County Judge Bruce Spanner ruled Wednesday that releasing the information would cause irreparable harm to more than 400 of the Level 1 offenders, the Tri-City Herald reported. Spanner said the information is considered confidential and that the requestor had no "legitimate interest" in it.
"There is no showing that the information requested is either relevant or necessary," Spanner wrote.
A Mesa woman, Donna Zink, had requested copies of records that include names, birthdays, phone numbers, pictures and other information for Level 1 sex offenders. Level 1 sex offenders are the most common and considered the least likely to reoffend. Law enforcement agencies say Level 1 registrants may be first-time offenders and that they typically know their victims.
Zink has said she believes people should know where someone convicted of any type of sex offense is living. She received records from Franklin County, but Benton County officials notified the offenders, providing them a chance to challenge the release of the files.
Level 2 and 3 sex offenders have a higher risk of re-offending, and information about those people are regularly posted online by law enforcement agencies.
Zink wrote on social media that Spanner's ruling will not stop her attempts to get the records and indicated that she planned to appeal.
Spanner's ruling blocks the release of the personal information of only 14 sex offenders who were first to get a hearing on a permanent injunction. Lawyers for other clients, however, said they are optimistic the ruling will be applied to their cases as well.
Richland attorney John Ziobro, who represents the offenders involved in this week's case, said it is great news for his clients.
"I haven't spoken to any of them, but I am sure they are ecstatic," Ziobro said.