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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. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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