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Judges reverse, reinstate sex-offender conviction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a man’s conviction of failing to register as a sex offender based on a lack of evidence showing the man had a connection to Indiana 90 days after his last registration. The appellate court did reinstate a vacated conviction for failing to notify law enforcement of his move within 72 hours.

Michael E. Johnson appealed his Class C felony conviction of failing to register as a sex offender, which was enhanced because of a prior conviction. As a sexually violent predator, he was required to register with law enforcement and have his picture taken every 90 days, and let officials know of changes in his address within 72 hours of moving.

In October 2008, Johnson reported in person to change his address; the next month he moved out of state without informing law enforcement. He was arrested several months later when he was visiting a friend in Indianapolis. He was charged with and found guilty on three counts: failing to update registration every 90 days; failing to update his address within 72 hours; and failing to reside at the address he registered. The trial court only entered a judgment of conviction on the first count.

In Michael E. Johnson v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0909-CR-908, the appellate court ruled the evidence doesn’t support Johnson’s conviction of failing to update his registration every 90 days. Based on Indiana Code, Johnson was only required to register 90 days after October 2008 if he was living in, working in, or going to school in Indiana, which the state didn’t prove.

But the appellate court reinstated Johnson’s conviction based on Count II because he didn’t notify officials of his change of address within 72 hours. Even though Indiana Code Section 11-8-8-11 doesn’t expressly say that a sex offender has to let law enforcement know of a change in address when he moves out of state, subsection (e) requires local law enforcement to notify the state police in the new state of the sex offender’s new place of residence.

“The only way to read the statute as a whole and avoid an absurd result is to read it to require that the sex offender notify the local law enforcement authority having jurisdiction over the sex offender at his current principal address of his move out of state and his new address,” wrote Judge Edward Najam. “Only then can the local law enforcement authority comply with subsection (e) and notify the state police in the new state.”

The appellate court remanded for the conviction on Count II to be reinstated and for Johnson to be sentenced accordingly with any credit given for time served on the vacated conviction based on Count I.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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