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US v Madera

5-23-2008 Florida:

US v Madera
528 F.3d 852 (2008)

Wilfredo G. Madera ("Madera") appeals from the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment against him for failing to register as a sex offender in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a) and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 ("Walsh Act"). On appeal, Madera argues that the Walsh Act is unconstitutional because it violates the following provisions of the United States Constitution: 1) the Non-Delegation Doctrine, Art. I, § 1; 2) the ex post facto clause, Art. I, § 9, cl. 3; 3) both the procedural and substantive due process clauses of the Fifth Amendment; and 4) the Commerce Clause, Art. I, § 8, cl. 3. The district court denied Madera's motion to dismiss, holding as a matter of law that the Walsh Act was both retroactive and constitutional. We reverse.

Factual Background

Madera was convicted in New York in November 2005 of sexual abuse in the second degree, a misdemeanor under New York Penal Code § 130.60. He was sentenced to six years of probation for this conviction, but was not incarcerated. Madera signed a sexual offender registration form in New York, dated May 1, 2006, which stated, "If you move to another state you must register as a sex offender within 10 days of establishing residence."

Madera subsequently moved to Florida, and was issued a driver's license on June 1, 2006 with an address in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was arrested on October 23, 2006 for failure to register as a sex offender in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2250, and was thereafter indicted by a grand jury for "knowingly and unlawfully fail[ing] to register and update a registration as required by [the Walsh Act]."

After the district court denied Madera's motion to dismiss, Madera entered a conditional plea of guilty to the failure to register charge, permitting him to appeal that motion. The district court then sentenced Madera to time served, four years of probation, and a $500 fine. As of March 8, 2007, Madera has been registered with the State of Florida Sexual Offender Registration database. This appeal followed.

... ... ...

Given our finding that the Attorney General had sole discretion to determine whether or not SORNA was to be retroactively applied to sex offenders convicted before its enactment date, it only stands to reason that SORNA's scope was undefined prior to that determination.7 Because Madera's indictment concerns his failure to register during the gap period between SORNA's enactment and the Attorney General's retroactivity determination, he cannot be prosecuted for violating SORNA during that time. Thus, his indictment is due to be dismissed, and the judgment of the district court is reversed.8

Having decided the case on this basis, we need not reach the important constitutional questions raised in Madera's appeal. See Slack v. McDaniel,529 U.S. 473, 485, 120 S.Ct. 1595, 146 L.Ed.2d 542 (2000) (recognizing "[c]ourts will not pass upon a constitutional question although properly presented in the record, if there is also present some other ground upon which the case may be disposed of") (citing Ashwander v. TVA,297 U.S. 288, 347, 56 S.Ct. 466, 80 L.Ed. 688 (1936) (Brandeis, J., concurring)).

The judgment of the district court is REVERSED.

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