Registry law doesn't apply to all sex offenders, Supreme Court rules
A sex offender who moved from Alabama to Indiana in 2004 does not have to register with authorities because his move predates the registry law Congress enacted in 2006, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.
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Carr’s lawyer fought the charge, arguing that his client moved to Indiana in December 2004, well before SORNA was passed by Congress and long before the attorney general established a regulation retroactively applying the new registration law to interstate travel by sex offenders.Skip to next paragraph
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A federal judge ruled that retroactive enforcement of the law did not violate the Constitution. Carr pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. But he reserved his right to appeal the ex post facto issue.
On appeal, a panel of the Seventh US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Carr’s conviction. The appeals court said his conviction should stand because he had been given a sufficient grace period (five months) between the enactment of the attorney general’s regulations and his failure to register as a sex offender.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court reversed that decision, remanding the case back to the lower courts to apply the new ruling.
“Reading [the statute] to reach only postenactment travel does not contravene SORNA’s underlying purposes, let alone result in an absurdity that would compel us to disregard the statutory text,” Sotomayor wrote.
She said since the case could be resolved through statutory interpretation, the high court need not consider whether the law violated the Constitution’s ex post facto clause.
The minority report
“As I read this language, neither the use of the present tense in paragraph (2) (B) nor the sequence in which the elements are listed provides any basis for limiting the provision to those sex offenders who move from one state to another after SORNA’s enactment,” Alito wrote.
“SORNA was a response to a dangerous gap in the then-existing sex-offender-registration laws,” Alito said. “In the years prior to SORNA’s enactment, the nation had been shocked by cases in which children had been raped and murdered by persons who, unbeknownst to their neighbors or the police, were convicted sex offenders.”
Alito said that the court’s analysis of the text of the statute was “unsound” and that the court’s conclusions “make no sense.”
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