Blog also contains "Unfavorable" and "Informational" decisions and other articles. All can be useful in framing arguments for new court cases. i.e., avoid pitfalls or inform court and simply to learn whats happening to others. If you know of a case or lawsuit not listed, please let us know. Leagle is our main resource.
View decisions by the Federal Circuit States are in.
NEW: (# Failure to Register Technicality
NEW: Travel Restrictions (Apparently Eff. 2013)
NEW: Border Patrol Checking
NEW: Failure to Register a Sex Offense???
CAUTION: SORNA EFFECTIVE even if state has not enacted it

Thursday, January 22, 2015

In re Oliver

3-8-1948 Michigan:

In re Oliver

A Michigan circuit judge summarily sent the petitioner to jail for contempt of court. We must determine whether he was denied the procedural due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

In obedience to a subpoena the petitioner appeared as a witness before a Michigan circuit judge who was then conducting, in accordance with Michigan law, a "one-man grand jury" investigation into alleged gambling and official corruption. The investigation presumably took place in the judge's chambers, though that is not certain.

Two other circuit judges were present in an advisory capacity.1 A prosecutor may have been present. A stenographer was most likely there. The record does not show what other members, if any, of the judge's investigatorial staff participated in the proceedings. It is certain, however, that the public was excluded — the questioning was secret in accordance with the traditional grand jury method.

After petitioner had given certain testimony, the judge-grand jury, still in secret session, told petitioner that neither he nor his advisors believed petitioner's story — that it did not "jell." This belief of the judge-grand jury was not based entirely on what the petitioner had testified. As will later be seen, it rested in part on beliefs or suspicions of the judge-jury derived from the testimony of at least one other witness who had previously given evidence in secret. Petitioner had not been present when that witness testified and so far as appears was not even aware that he had testified. Based on its beliefs thus formed — that petitioner's story did not "jell" — the judge-grand jury immediately charged him with contempt, immediately convicted him, and immediately sentenced him to sixty days in jail. Under these circumstances of haste and secrecy, petitioner, of course, had no chance to enjoy the benefits of counsel, no chance to prepare his defense, and no opportunity either to cross-examine the other grand jury witness or to summon witnesses to refute the charge against him.

Three days later a lawyer filed on petitioner's behalf in the Michigan Supreme Court the petition for habeas corpus now under consideration. It alleged among other things that the petitioner's attorney had not been allowed to confer with him and that, to the best of the attorney's knowledge, the petitioner was not held in jail under any judgment, decree or execution, and was "not confined by virtue of any legal commitment directed to the sheriff as required by law." An order was then entered signed by the circuit judge that he had while "sitting as a One-Man Grand Jury" convicted the petitioner of contempt of court because petitioner had testified "evasively" and had given "contradictory answers" to questions. The order directed that petitioner "be confined in the County Jail . . . for a period of sixty (60) days or until such time as he . . . shall appear and answer the questions heretofore propounded to him by this Court. . . ."

The Supreme Court of Michigan, on grounds detailed in the companion case of In re Hartley, 317 Mich. 441, 27 N.W.2d 48,2 rejected petitioner's contention that the summary manner in which he had been sentenced to jail in the secrecy of the grand jury chamber had deprived him of his liberty without affording him the kind of notice, opportunity to defend himself, and trial which the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires.3 In re Oliver, 318 Mich. 7, 27 N.W.2d 323. We granted certiorari to consider these procedural due process questions.

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It is "the law of the land" that no man's life, liberty or property be forfeited as a punishment until there has been a charge fairly made and fairly tried in a public tribunal. See Chambers v. Florida, 309 U.S. 227, 236-237. The petitioner was convicted without that kind of trial.

The judgment of the Supreme Court of Michigan is reversed and the cause is remanded to it for disposition not inconsistent with this opinion. Case is reversed and remanded.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

John Doe XLVI -v- Stephanie Anderson et al.

1-13-2015 Maine:

John Doe XLVI -v- Stephanie Anderson et al.

John Doe XLVI appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court (Kennebec County, Murphy, J.) denying his request for declaratory relief and a temporary restraining order. Doe argues that Maine’s Sex offender Registration and Notification Act of 1999 (SORNA), 34-A M.R.S. §§ 11201 to 11256 (2012),1 as applied to him violates the Bill of Attainder, Due Process, and Separation of Powers Clauses of the Maine Constitution.

The trial court determined that as applied to Doe SORNA is not punitive, and rejected Doe’s bill of attainder claim without considering the lack of a judicial trial and specificity, the other elements of a bill of attainder challenge. We conclude that SORNA is punitive as to offenders who were not sentenced to comply with SORNA when SORNA registration was part of sentencing and who were subsequently subjected to SORNA registration when their earlier offenses were added to the statutory list of sex offenses and registration was removed from sentencing.

We therefore vacate the judgment with respect to the bill of attainder issue. Because the trial record does not contain sufficient facts regarding the specificity element of Doe’s bill of attainder claim, we remand for further consideration.


When Doe was convicted, SORNA was part of the sentencing process. At the time of Doe’s sentence, the Maine Criminal Code, in a section titled “Authorized Sentences,” required sentencing courts to order defendants who were convicted of sex offenses to comply with SORNA: “As part of a sentence, the court shall order every natural person who is a convicted sex offender or sexually violent predator as defined under Title 34-A, section 11203 to satisfy all requirements set forth in the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 1999.” 17-A M.R.S.A. § 1152(2-C) (Supp. 2002).4

The section of SORNA regarding an offender’s duty to register likewise provided, “The court shall determine at the time of sentencing if a defendant is a sex offender or a sexually violent predator. A person who the court determines is a sex offender or a sexually violent predator shall register according to this subchapter.” 34-A M.R.S.A. § 11222(1) (Supp. 2002).5

Doe’s Judgment and Commitment form contained a box that the sentencing judge was required to check if the conviction was for an offense requiring SORNA registration. Because possession of sexually explicit material was not then a sex offense as defined by 34-A M.R.S.A. § 11203 (Supp. 2002),6 the sentencing court did not check the box on Doe’s Judgment and Commitment form and Doe was not ordered to comply with SORNA.

In September 2003, possession of sexually explicit material was added to the list of sex offenses, a conviction for which required the defendant to register. P.L. 2003, ch. 371, § 2 (effective Sept. 13, 2003) (codified as amended at 34-A M.R.S.A. § 11203(6) (Supp. 2003)).7 In July 2004, a 2003 amendment to the Maine Criminal Code’s sentencing provisions regarding sex offenders took effect.8 P.L. 2003, ch. 711, § B–13 (effective July 30, 2004). After the amendment’s effective date, the sentencing court was to order compliance with SORNA’s registration provisions “[a]t the time” of sentencing rather than “as part of” a sentence. See id.

In July 2006, Doe received a letter from the Maine State Police advising him that he was required to register. The following month, he responded with a letter stating that he did not believe he was required to register because there had been no “triggering event” requiring registration, such as a court’s determination of the duty to register. After learning of Doe’s objection, the Office
of the Attorney General sent a letter dated January 10, 2007, to the State Bureau of Identification stating that it would recommend an amendment to SORNA if those convicted after 1999 but before 2003 fell into a “gap in the duty to register.”

In 2009, 17-A M.R.S. § 1152(2-C) was repealed by P.L. 2009, ch. 365, § A-3 (effective Sept. 12, 2009). This law amended the Maine Criminal Code, repealing “from the sentencing provisions the directive that a court order a person convicted of a sex offense . . . to satisfy all requirements of [SORNA].” L.D. 1157 Summary (124th Legis. 2009). It also amended SORNA to require that a court “notify the offender at the time of sentence of the duty to register[,]” and to provide that an offender’s duty to register is triggered by receiving notice from a court, the Department of Corrections, the State Bureau of Identification, or a law enforcement agency. P.L. 2009, ch. 365, § B-15 (effective Sept. 12, 2009).9 These changes clarified that “the Legislature determines that a duty to register exists based on the conviction,” “that a duty to register is not triggered by a court determination, but by and upon notification,” “and that the court’s duty is only to notify the person of that duty.” L.D. 1157 Summary (124th Legis. 2009).

In February 2012, Doe received a second notice of the duty to register from the State Bureau of dentification. In April 2012, Doe filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment and temporary restraining order to enjoin the State from pursuing criminal charges against him for failing to register. In his complaint, Doe alleged that SORNA was an unconstitutional ex post facto law and bill of attainder, and that applying it to him violated the Separation of Powers Clause and his substantive and procedural due process rights. At a hearing on May 3, 2012, the Superior Court rejected Doe’s ex post facto challenge. On October 29, 2013, the court entered an order rejecting Doe’s due process, separation of powers, and bill of attainder claims. Following the court’s denial of his motion to reconsider, Doe timely appealed.10 See M.R. App. P. 2(b).


Here, the duty to comply with SORNA was clearly imposed on Doe without a judicial trial. Doe did not have a trial but he did plead guilty to one charge of possession of sexually explicit material. After that plea, which resulted in his conviction, Doe was sentenced, but his sentence did not include a registration obligation because, at the time Doe was sentenced, the Maine Legislature had not deemed his crime to be a sex offense. The legislative amendment to SORNA that purported to change Doe’s sentence by imposing registration obligations on him occurred without a judicial determination that Doe was a sex offender and without a judicial order incorporating the registration obligation into his criminal sentence.

Friday, January 16, 2015

USA -v- Fernandez

1-15-2015 Louisiana:

USA -v- Fernandez

In 2013, Fernando Fernandez was convicted, pursuant to his guilty plea, of failing to register as a sex offender, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a). He challenges a life-term special condition of supervised release, requiring him to “install [computer] filtering software . . . block[ing]/monitor[ing] access to sexually oriented websites” for “any computer he possesses or uses”.

At issue is whether the court abused its discretion by imposing the software-installation special condition in the light of, inter alia, Fernandez’ neither using a computer nor the Internet in committing either his current offense (failing to register as a sex offender) or his underlying sex offense (sexual assault of a child).


In the light of the facts at hand, the district court abused its discretion in imposing the software-installation special condition provision at issue, when, inter alia, neither his failure-to-register offense nor his criminal history has any connection to computer use or the Internet.

Similar to Tang, the special condition imposed in this instance is related neither to the nature and circumstances of Fernandez’ offense (failing to register as a sex offender) nor his criminal history and characteristics.

Along that line, the district court’s reason for justifying the special condition is not sufficiently tied to the facts. As noted, for justifying its imposition, the court stated: “‘Failure to register’ means he’s a sex offender in the past. Ease of access through the Internet”.

In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the court’s general concerns about recidivism or that Fernandez would use a computer to perpetrate future sex-crimes are insufficient to justify the imposition of an otherwise unrelated software-installation special condition.

For the foregoing reasons, the special condition requiring software installation is VACATED; this matter is REMANDED for entry of the corrected judgment.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

USA -v- Collins

12-9-2014 West Virginia:

USA -v- Collins

Dwaine Allen Collins was convicted of knowingly failing to register as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). The district court sentenced Collins to 30 months’ imprisonment and ten years of supervised release. On this direct appeal, Collins contests his conviction primarily on the grounds that the government failed to prove an essential element of a SORNA violation: that he knew he had an obligation to register.

In support, he points to comments made by a state court judge in a separate proceeding, which in Collins’s view suggest that his obligation to register had expired. We agree with the district court, however, that the state judge appeared to be giving advice rather than a binding legal opinion. Moreover, there is substantial evidence in the record to support the district court’s conclusion that Collins knowingly avoided an obligation to register as a sex offender. We thus find Collins’s claim unpersuasive and affirm his conviction.

Collins also appeals his sentence. We find his 30-month term of imprisonment, which is within the applicable Guidelines range, to be reasonable and thus affirm the district court’s sentence in that respect. As to the term of supervised release, however, the United States Sentencing Commission recently issued a clarifying amendment stating that a failure to register under SORNA is not a “sex offense” for the purposes of the Guidelines. Consequently, we vacate the supervised release portion of Collins’s sentence and remand for further proceedings.

... ... ... ...

For the reasons provided above, we affirm Collins’s conviction and his term of imprisonment, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion as to his term of supervised release.