COA: Sex offender registration is mandatory collateral consequence

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Despite arguing his guilty plea did not include a sex offense, a Steuben County man will have to remain on the state’s sex offender registry after the Indiana Court of Appeals found registering was a collateral consequence for his conviction.

Nathan Healey pleaded guilty to criminal confinement, a Class D felony, in 2009 and was sentenced to three years, with all but 270 days suspended. After he was released from the Indiana Department of Correction, Healey was required to register as a sex offender because his victim was less than 12 years old at the time of the crime.

Healey brought a declaratory judgment action for relief, asserting he did not plead to the age of the victim. The Steuben Circuit Court rejected his argument, and on appeal Healey argued the registration requirement violated his Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury. In particular, he said he would have had to admit the underlying facts supporting the requirement as part of his plea agreement in order to be placed on the registry.

However, the state countered that Healey’s registration requirement is not part of his sentence, but instead is a collateral consequence. Specifically, his registration requirement fell under the state’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA).

The Court of Appeals agreed with the state and affirmed the trial court’s denial of Healey’s petition in Nathan Healey v. Robert Carter, Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Corrections, et al., 76A03-1711-MI-2681.

Reviewing the Indiana Code, the appellate panel found the Legislature included the entire criminal confinement statute when defining both “sex offender” and “sex or violent offender.” Then the administrative authority over SORA was delegated to the Department of Correction, which is required to maintain the sex offender registry.

“Quite simply, Healey pleaded guilty to criminal confinement, his victim was less than eighteen years of old, and Healey was not the victim’s parent or guardian; therefore, ‘(p)lacement on the Registry is mandatory, and the Act affords neither the trial court nor the DOC any discretion in the matter of the registration requirements,’” Judge Margret Robb wrote for the court, citing Nichols v. State, 947 N.E.2d 1011, 1017 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011).

“…We agree with the reasoning of the Nichols court,” Robb continued. “Healey pleaded guilty to the requisite crime of criminal confinement and admitted that Z.M. was the victim of the crime. Accordingly, Healey’s registration requirement was ‘a consequence of the operation of the Act itself,’… .”

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