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Man can be charged for failing to register in 2 counties

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has ordered a trial on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender in Vanderburgh County, ruling that a man can be charged in that county even though he pleaded guilty to failing to register in a different county based on the same move.

Willie Montgomery was convicted of sexual battery and is required to register as a sex offender. When Indiana State Police went to his Pike County home to ensure his registered address was correct, police learned from his parents that Montgomery moved to Vanderburgh County to live with his girlfriend.

Police confirmed he moved to Vanderburgh County and did not update his address with either county as is required by statute. Within two days, he was charged with failing to register in both counties; Montgomery pleaded guilty in Pike County. He then filed a motion to dismiss the charge in Vanderburgh County, alleging it is barred based on his plea agreement and double jeopardy principles.

This issue came before the Court of Appeals on interlocutory appeal in Willie L. Montgomery v. State of Indiana, 82A05-1401-CR-34.

“Montgomery argues that there is a single duty for a sex offender to register with the appropriate law enforcement officials when moving and asserts that he can be guilty of only one offense. However, Montgomery’s interpretation does not comport with our reading of Indiana Code section 11-8-8-17(a),” Judge John Baker wrote. “There are two duties here, one for a sex offender to reside at his registered address in Pike County and one to register as a sex offender in Vanderburgh County. Montgomery is guilty of two divisible offenses. Therefore, he could fulfill or omit one duty without fulfilling or omitting the other. As such, we cannot find that Montgomery was charged twice with the same offense for the same act. Rather, we conclude that he was properly charged twice for two separate offenses.”

The judges also found that Montgomery’s charge in Vanderburgh County does not violate double jeopardy principles. He was charged with two counts of failing to register under I.C. 11-8-8-17(a), and different evidence would be required to prove each charge because the charges were the result of two divisible omissions. 

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