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US v Baccam

4-28-2009 Arkansas:

US v Baccam
(562 F.3d 1197 (2009)

Phasung Lu Baccam was convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 2250 for failing to register as a sex offender after he moved to Arkansas from California where he had been convicted of a sex offense under state law. The district court1 denied his motion to dismiss the indictment on the ground that he had not received notice of the federal sex offender registration law. Baccam appeals, and we affirm.

In 1996 Baccam was convicted in California of sexual contact with a minor female. Under California law this conviction required him to maintain registration as a sex offender throughout his lifetime.

Cal.Penal Code § 290(b) (Deering 2009). Two "Notice of Sex Offender Registration Requirement" forms that Baccam signed on February 8, 1999 and November 10, 2003 not only detailed his registration requirements within California, but also notified him that if he moved to another state he would need to register in that state within ten days and notify the law enforcement agency with which he was last registered of his change of residence. After Baccam was arrested in California for failure to update his registration he signed another form on September 19, 2005. That form required him to initial his acknowledgment that he was required to register as a sex offender in any state to which he might relocate.

In the summer of 2007 Baccam moved to Arkansas but did not register as a sex offender. When he was arrested in September 2007 for traffic violations, officials discovered that he had not registered as a sex offender in their state as required by California, Arkansas, and federal law. He was later indicted under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 18 U.S.C. § 2250, for his failure to register. ....

Baccam moved to dismiss the indictment charging him under § 2250(a). After the district court denied the motion, Baccam entered a conditional guilty plea and was sentenced to twenty four months. We review de novo the denial of a motion to dismiss an indictment. See United States v. Cvijanovich,556 F.3d 857, 862 (8th Cir.2009).

Baccam contends that he could not, as a matter of law, knowingly fail to register under SORNA because he was never told of his specific registration obligations under that law. A provision in SORNA entitled "Duty to notify sex offenders of registration requirements and to register" states that "[a]n appropriate official shall... inform the sex offender of the duties of a sex offender under this title and explain those duties." 42 U.S.C. § 16917(a).

Baccam contends that because there is no evidence that he was ever informed about his duties under SORNA, which had been enacted in 2006 after he had signed the California forms informing him of his duty to register if he moved to a different state, the government cannot prove an element of the offense and the indictment should have been dismissed.

The government argues that the scienter requirement in § 2250(a) does not require that Baccam specifically knew he was violating SORNA, but only that he knew he was violating a legal registration requirement upon relocating. It urges that Baccam knew he was required to register in a new state because of the information provided him on the California forms he had signed in 1999, 2003, and 2005. .....

We conclude that it would be inconsistent with SORNA's purpose of protecting the public by strengthening the system of sex offender registration not to give effect to state law notifications that relocation requires registration in the new jurisdiction. There is no reason to believe that the SORNA notice provision in § 16917 was intended to dilute the effect of state notice requirements, given the stated congressional intent to protect the public by establishing a comprehensive national system for registration of sex offenders. 42 U.S.C. § 16901.

We conclude that Baccam had adequate notice of his registration obligations based on the information provided him in the California registration forms, even if that notice did not explain that failure to register would be a violation of federal law as well as state law. Baccam does not deny that he knew that he needed to register in Arkansas. Had he done so, he would have received notification of SORNA's requirements, and would have been in compliance with federal law.3

Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

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