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US v Felts

3-12-2012 Tennessee:

US v Felts
No. 11-5237.

David Wayne Felts was convicted for failing to register under the Sex Offender Registration Notification Act ("SORNA") in Tennessee.
Felts's appeal presents a case of first impression for this Circuit—can an offender be convicted for failure to register under SORNA if his home state, Tennessee, has not yet completely implemented the act?
Felts challenges the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment. In concert with six other circuits, we hold that SORNA is effective in a state, even prior to its complete implementation. Felts's alternate constitutional arguments—that SORNA violates the Ex Post Facto Clause, the nondelegation doctrine, and the Tenth Amendment—are without merit.

I
Felts served fifteen years of imprisonment for a 1994 conviction for rape of a child (a twelve-year-old female) on November 3, 1993 and aggravated sexual battery (a different twelve-year-old victim) on October 26, 1993. After his release, Felts, along with his girlfriend and her six-year-old daughter, moved to Florida, and then to San Juan, Puerto Rico, without notifying the registration authorities in his home state of Tennessee. Felts was indicted on one count of failing to register under SORNA, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a). The district court denied Felts's motion to dismiss, after which Felts pleaded guilty. Felts was sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment. Felts now appeals the denial of the motion to dismiss.

... ... ...

Unlike the situation with the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in Printz, Congress through SORNA has not commandeered Tennessee, nor compelled the state to comply with its requirements. Congress has simply placed conditions on the receipt of federal funds. A state is free to keep its existing sex-offender registry system in place (and risk losing funding) or adhere to SORNA's requirements (and maintain funding). Since Felts's conviction, Tennessee has come into substantial compliance with SORNA. The choice is that of the state.

SORNA does not violate the rights of Tennessee, or those of Felts as an individual, under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.

The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.

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