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SCOTUS rules on scope of sex offender registration law

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The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that a federal law requiring sex offenders to update their registration when crossing states lines doesn’t automatically apply to those who committed their crimes before the law was passed.

In a 7-2 ruling issued Monday in Reynolds v. United States, No. 10–6549, the court reversed the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals that had dismissed a sex offender’s lawsuit challenging his arrest and conviction for violating the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, enacted in 2007.

Billy Joe Reynolds served four years in prison after being convicted of a sex offense in Missouri in 2001. After his release in 2005, he registered in Missouri but didn’t update his registration when moving to Pennsylvania in 2007. He was charged with knowingly failing to register according to the law and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. Reynolds sued on the grounds that his crime was before the U.S. attorney general issued an opinion in early 2007 that SORNA applied to pre-act offenders, but the 3rd Circuit ruled against him and dismissed the suit.

The SCOTUS overruled that appellate decision, sending the case back to the Circuit level for a decision on whether the AG had validly specified such an application. Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, writing that they believe the law applies to pre-act offenders regardless of what the AG has done.

Federal courts, including the 7th Circuit, have been split on this issue in recent years. The SCOTUS ruled in 2010 on an Indiana case, Carr v. United States, but the justices sidestepped addressing whether the SORNA registration requirements applied to the original sex offense and instead focused on when the interstate travel occured. In Carr, the court held that the SORNA doesn’t apply to sex offenders whose interstate travel occurred before the law went into effect.

 

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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