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April 20, 2008

District Judge finds AWA registration provision unconstitutional

Thanks to this piece from the Orlando Sentinel, I see that US District Judge Gregory Presnell late last week reach a notable constitutional conclusion about the Adam Walsh Act's sex offender registration provisions.  From the news report:

An Orlando federal judge has ordered the release of two jailed, out-of-state sex offenders who moved to Florida, ruling that part of the Adam Walsh Act requiring their registration is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell on Friday ruled that the 2006 federal law requiring state sex offenders to register with law-enforcement officials when they move across state lines was largely a local issue.

The ruling, made in two unrelated sex-offender cases pending in Orlando, led to the dismissal of charges against Robert D. Powers, 43, and Tommy William Buckius, 60, both of Orlando....

The ruling in US v. Powers, No. 6:07-cr-221-Orl-31(M.D. Fla. April 18, 2008), is available at this link.  Here is Judge Presnell's concluding paragraph:

As the Government notes, the Adam Walsh Act was enacted with a commendable goal — to protect the public from sex offenders. However, a worthy cause is not enough to transform a state concern (sex offender registration) into a federal crime. If an individual’s mere unrelated travel in interstate commerce is sufficient to establish a Commerce Clause nexus with purely local conduct, then virtually all criminal activity would be subject to the power of the federal government.  Surely our founding fathers did not contemplate such a broad view of federalism.  Accordingly, the Court finds that the adoption of the statute under which Defendant is charged violates Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause and is, therefore, unconstitutional.

The government will surely appeal this ruling, and I know some other district courts have already upheld the constitutionality of these provisions of the AWA.  It will only be a matter of time before we get some circuit law (and perhaps some circuit splits) on the reach and application of the AWA.  Stay tuned.

April 20, 2008 at 08:02 AM | Permalink

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» Congress Has No Power to Regulate Traveling in Interstate Commerce By Sex Offenders, District Court Judge Holds: from The Volokh Conspiracy
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Tracked on Apr 20, 2008 12:31:56 PM

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Tracked on Apr 20, 2008 1:36:30 PM

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