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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
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SCOTUS to Decide Reach of Sex Offender Registry

(CN) - The Supreme Court on Friday said it will consider whether the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act requires sex offenders who move to a foreign country to notify their prior home state of their change of residence.

At issue is are the cases of two men who lived on opposite sides of the Missouri River in the Kansas City Metropolitan area, were both convicted of sex crimes in unrelated cases prior to the enactment of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, and later moved -- again separately -- to the Philippines.

Once Lester Nichols and Robert Lunsford left the country, they neither man updated their sex offender registrations in the respective jurisdictions they'd departed. But because of where they lived before leaving Kansas City, their fates were decided different, and that is what presumably triggered the pending high court review.

Lunsford flew to the Philippines with no intention to return to the United States in 2011. But when he failed to inform the Missouri sex offender registry of his change of address, he was arrested and deported on charges he violated Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act

Lunsford moved to dismiss the indictment on the grounds the Act did not require him to update his registration once he left the country.

After his motion was denied, he entered a conditional guilty plea, and then appealed the denial of the motion.

On review, the Eighth Circuit ruled that while the Act requires sex offenders to keep their residency information current in each jurisdiction in which they reside, the definition of "jurisdiction" contained in the regulation excludes foreign countries.

As a result, the three-judge panel said, Lunsford did not violate the Act by failing to update his registration. It reversed the district court ruling and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the indictment.

Lester Nichols was convicted of a sex offense in 2003 and was imprisoned until March 2012. Upon his release, he updated his registration every three months, and then in November 2012, he too decided to move to the Philippines.

Like Lunsford, Nichols was arrested and deported and charged with not updating his residency status. In October 2013, Nichols moved to dismiss the indictment one two grounds: that the Act did not require him to update his status after he moved to the Philippines, and that Congress violated the nondelegation doctrine when it have unconstrained discretion to the U.S. Attorney General to decide whether that Act applies to those convicted before its enactment. The trial court refused to dismiss the case, prompting Nichols to enter a conditional guilty plea and immediately file an appeal.

But unlike Lunsford, because Nichols, being from the Kansas side of the Missouri River, he was subject to the jurisdiction of the 10th Circuit, which affirmed the lower court's ruling and created a circuit split.

Nichols filed his petition for a writ of certiorari on July 14, 2015. The United States filed its brief in opposition on Sept. 16.

As is their custom, the Justices did not comment on their reasons for taking the case.

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