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December 23, 2011

Tenth Circuit holds that sex offender's run for the border does not preclude registration requirements

The Tenth Circuit has an interesting sex offender opinion today in US v. Murphy, No. 10-4095 (10th Cir. Dec. 23, 2011) (available here), which gets started this way:

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 16911–29, requires a sex offender to register and keep the registration current in each state where he resides, works, or studies.  Sex offenders who change their name, residence, employment, or student status, must appear in person in at least one “jurisdiction involved” to inform the state’s authorities of the change. In this appeal we must determine whether a sex offender violates SORNA by abandoning his residence and moving to a foreign country without notifying the authorities of the home state.   We conclude he does.  For SORNA purposes, a sex offender continues to reside in a state after a change in residence or employment, both of which trigger reporting obligations, even if the offender eventually leaves the state.  Therefore, even if an offender abandons his current residence and job with the intention of moving out of the country, he must update his registration to reflect his new status.

Here is the factual back-story that set up this issue for the Tenth Circuit:

Kevin Daniel Murphy is registered as a sex offender in Utah, having been convicted by Utah state courts of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated sexual abuse of a child. Several times since his conviction, he has signed forms acknowledging his duty to notify the authorities upon any change of residence.  In 2007, he was paroled from state prison to the Bonneville Community Correction Center in Salt Lake City.  While residing at Bonneville, Murphy was allowed to work in the community on the condition of restrictive movement, meaning correctional officers transported him to and from his workplace each day.

Despite these precautions, Murphy fled Bonneville a few months after his arrival. Instead of reporting to his employer, he boarded a bus to California and then took a taxi into Mexico.  He ended up in Belize, believing he could escape extradition under that country’s laws.  After living in Belize for six months under the name Dan Murray, Murphy was arrested for lacking proper documentation.  Belize deported Murphy to the United States, where he was returned to Utah.

December 23, 2011 at 05:48 PM | Permalink

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Comments

In Lucero's dissent, he discusses the majority opinion which defines two separate uses of the word "reside" in different ways. While making a reasoned argument on the majority using ordinary instead of statutory definition(s), he gave us this little gem:

"Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander"

Opinions don't have to be dry. . .Bravo.

Posted by: Eric | Dec 23, 2011 6:14:03 PM

hmm

"For SORNA purposes, a sex offender continues to reside in a state after a change in residence or employment, both of which trigger reporting obligations, even if the offender eventually leaves the state."

I think these judges are traitrous retards who need to cut thier own throats and save the universe the trouble of removing them from the gene pool!

sorry LEGALLY changing your residence removes any requirments at the old one!

now in this case. i'm not sure why this is even coming up. the guy was an ESCAPED felon!

"In 2007, he was paroled from state prison to the Bonneville Community Correction Center in Salt Lake City. While residing at Bonneville, Murphy was allowed to work in the community on the condition of restrictive movement, meaning correctional officers transported him to and from his workplace each day."

He was on parole! now if he had Not been on parole! had finished any probation! and simply walked into the local sheriff's office and said on "x" date i'm leaving this jurisdiction and moving to where ever! would not be a damn thing they could do and once he LEFT the state that would be the end of thier LEGAL right to tell him a thing!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 23, 2011 8:21:34 PM

Looks like a case of picking out the "worst possible case" offender for making legal precedent.

Let's see: Running away from a parole sentence and leaving the US illegally (without passport) are MORE serious than a registration violation, at least in a sane universe. But typically, the SORNA violation appears to be the "biggie" here. Unfortunately, this case sets up a precedence for other SORNA situations. For instance, a registrant may have fulfilled his time requirement for a state that has, say, a ten year registration requirement. He moves to a state that doesn't have a 10 year requirement, or requires a "reset" on his registration requirement. This, in fact, would constitute far more likelihood than someone running away from parole and entering another country illegally.

This ruling will actually muddy the waters up more in the long run, but I suspect that is what the authorities want in the first place.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Dec 23, 2011 9:54:44 PM

So I have a question about something I'm not entirely clear on --

The appellant here was prosecuted under the federal SORNA law, but was convicted in Utah state courts of state crimes. Can someone explain to me how that works? Is it just federal supremacy?

Posted by: Guy | Dec 23, 2011 10:20:09 PM

So if he advised Utah he was leaving the country he was good with the law. Except that would require he incriminate himself on the absconding charge. What if he mailed a letter to the Utah authorities and was out of the country before they received it?

Did I nail it?

Posted by: George | Dec 23, 2011 11:43:16 PM

"For SORNA purposes, a sex offender continues to reside in a state after a change in residence or employment, both of which trigger reporting obligations, even if the offender eventually leaves the state." I can't help but think that when lay people read sentences like this, it must reinforce the impression that lawyers can pretty much argue anything with a straight face. I'm not saying the 10th Circuit is incorrectly applying case or statutory law, but when doing so results in a statement that essentially avers, "A person resides in a state in which he no longer resides", I wouldn't blame someone for ranting against the inanity of lawyers (and judges).

Guy: Congress has no inherent power under the Constitution to require offenders convicted of state law to register as sex offenders. If the offender crosses state lines, then under an extraordinarily expansive definition of "commerce", he is involved in commerce among the states--and now Congress can require him to register as a sex offender. Obviously, there is nothing about SORNA that any rational person would consider to be a regulation of commerce, but under modern Supreme Court precedent, that's not really important any more. As long as there is some interstate nexus, then Congress gets to call it commerce, and Congress gets to regulate it. The Supremacy Clause is not really the basis for SORNA in this context.

Posted by: C.E. | Dec 24, 2011 6:09:06 AM

all stupidity like this does is give the citizens of this country even more legal justification to stop bothering to play nice and remove them anyway they have to No matter who get's hurt!

if they had hammered him with the escape charge and parole violation i'd never say a word. He's guilty as hell. But this SORNA drivil just proves the writers are too STUPID to live!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 24, 2011 12:40:57 PM

@CE -- thanks for that explanation. So then presuming that a sex offender stays within state lines (and was convicted on state counts), then they don't need to comply with the requirements of SORNA, but as soon as they cross state lines to establish a new residence or workplace, then they do need to comply with SORNA because of, at least arguably, the Commerce Clause -- is that right?

Posted by: Guy | Dec 25, 2011 7:59:28 PM

Guy: That's my understanding. Keep in mind, I am only passingly familiar with SORNA, so there may be some aspect of it that applies to purely intrastate conduct (for instance, it also applies to people entering or leaving "Indian country", e.g., a reservation wholly contained within one state, but that's also considered "interstate commerce"). SORNA is actually a lengthy statute that deals mostly with federal requirements imposed upon states to set up and maintain sex offender registries. The criminal part of it, I believe, is at 18 U.S.C. s. 2250, which you can find at Cornell University's LII web site.

Posted by: C.E. | Dec 26, 2011 4:15:45 AM

CE -- thanks again for that explanation.

-Guy

Posted by: Guy | Dec 27, 2011 11:03:49 AM

maybe so C.E but i have heard of any number of cases where individuals have went in and did all the legal paperwork to move to a new location only to get there and discover under THAT state's law t hey are NOT required to register and the state refuses to do the work for the febs.

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 27, 2011 12:43:31 PM

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