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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Ind. Decisions - More on Carr v. United States [Updated]

The ILB has quite a number of entries mentioning a case decided today by SCOTUS, Carr. v. United States, which came out of the ND Ind. See particularly this entry from Dec. 22, 2008 re the 7th Circuit opinion.

Courthouse News Service has posted this coverage, headed "Sex Offender Law Can't Be Applied Retroactively."

Carr and several other of today's decisions are summarized by The Village Voice in this don't miss story by Foster Kamer headed "Happy SCOTUSTime: A Users Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court Rulings Handed Down Today!." The Carr summary:

Carr involved a guy who didn't register for SORNA, or the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, after he moved from Alabama to Indiana. This guy, Thomas Carr, had already registered as a sex offender in Alabama in 2004, but when he moved to Indiana, failed to register as one there, which law enforcement officials found out when he was busted for an unrelated crime in July 2007. Earlier that year, in February 2007, the Attorney General ruled that SORNA applied to all sex offenders, even those who were convicted before SORNA went into effect. Carr argued a defense of the constitution's ex post facto clause, wherin, he's protected because you can't be retroactively punished by new laws. And the court ruled in his favor!
[Updated at 3:00 PM] Warren Richey of the Christian Science Monitor has now filed a long story on Carr, with this headline: "Registry law doesn't apply to all sex offenders, Supreme Court rules: A sex offender who moved from Alabama to Indiana in 2004 does not have to register with authorities because his move predates the registry law Congress enacted in 2006, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday." Some quotes:
In a 6-to-3 decision, the high court rejected the Obama administration’s expansive reading of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). Instead, the majority justices embraced a narrower view of the law, while overturning a convicted sex offender’s 30-month prison sentence for traveling to another state and failing to register.

The decision triggered a heated dissent by three justices who warned that the ruling will impair the ability of law enforcement officials to locate and register some 100,000 convicted sex offenders who have eluded authorities.

“Under the court’s interpretation, the many sex offenders who had managed to avoid pre-existing registration regimes, mainly by moving from one state to another before SORNA’s enactment, are placed beyond the reach of the federal criminal laws,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote.

Lawyers for convicted sex offender Thomas Carr had claimed the government’s retroactive enforcement of SORNA violated the Constitution’s ban on ex post facto laws. But the high court did not reach that constitutional question.

Instead, the majority justices found that the statute, as written by Congress, did not authorize retroactive enforcement.

“Taking account of SORNA’s overall structure, we have little reason to doubt that Congress intended [the statute] to do exactly what it says: to subject to federal prosecution sex offenders who elude SORNA’s registration requirements by traveling in interstate commerce,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the majority opinion.

Justice Sotomayor said Congress chose to use the present-tense word “travels” in the statute, rather than the past-tense word “traveled.” If Congress wanted the law to apply to travel undertaken before the law’s passage, it would have used the past tense, she said.

Mr. Carr, a convicted sex offender, had argued that the law was unconstitutional because it sought to punish earlier actions committed prior to passage of the statute. Under SORNA, a defendant may face up to 10 years in prison if he or she is a convicted sex offender who travels from one state to another and who knowingly fails to register with authorities.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 1, 2010 01:29 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions