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March 13, 2009

Fourth Circuit reverses set of federal convictions under SORNA

A split Fourth Circuit panel this afternoon reversed a set of convictions under the federal sex offender registration laws.  The majority opinion in US v. Hatcher, No. 07-4839 (4th Cir. March 13, 2009) (available here), starts this way:

In these consolidated appeals, William T. Hatcher, Richard Dean Hinen, Gregory V. Roberts, and John Edward Sawn appeal their convictions. Each of the Appellants was convicted of knowingly failing to register or update their registration as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act ("SORNA"), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a) (2006).  The Appellants argue that SORNA is unconstitutional because it is not a valid exercise of congressional authority and because it violates the non-delegation doctrine, the Ex Post Facto Clause, and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.  However, we need not reach these constitutional questions because we find that, as a matter of statutory interpretation, SORNA’s registration requirements did not apply to the Appellants at the time they committed the acts giving rise to their indictments. Therefore, we must reverse the convictions and vacate the sentences imposed in connection with those convictions.

March 13, 2009 at 06:50 PM | Permalink


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