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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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