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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. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

  2. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  3. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  4. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  5. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

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