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People v North

Never before have I seen a "purpose of registration" esp. one that supposidly claims "..is to assure that sex offenders are readily available for police surveillance, .." Personally that is absurd, I cannot believe a court came to that conclusion.

10-20-2003 California:

People v North
5 Cal.Rptr.3d 337 (2003)
112 Cal.App.4th 621

California's sex offender registration statute requires offenders who have no residence to register in the jurisdiction where they are "located" within five working days of changing their "location," and give the authorities written notice of their new "location." (Pen.Code, § 290, subds. (a)(1)(A) and (f)(1).1) In this case, an offender convicted of violating these requirements contends the terms "located" and "location" are unconstitutionally vague.

After careful consideration of the disputed language in its statutory context, and in light of its legislative purpose, we are constrained to agree that section 290 does not give transient sex offenders fair notice of what they must do to conform with the registration requirements governing changes of "location." We also conclude transient offenders can only guess at what is meant by the requirement that they register at every "location" they regularly occupy in a single jurisdiction. (§ 290, subd. (a)(1)(B).) Section 290 fails to provide even minimal guidelines for the registering authorities in these regards, thus encouraging arbitrary enforcement. Accordingly, we hold the provisions governing changes of "location" and registration at multiple "locations" within a jurisdiction unconstitutionally vague.

On the other hand, the basic registration requirements for transient sex offenders— that they register in each jurisdiction in which they are regularly "located" and update their registration every 60 days (§ 290, subd. (a)(1)(A), (B), and (C))—may be reasonably and practically understood by offenders and law enforcement as mandating registration in any jurisdiction where the offender is present on five consecutive working days. Those provisions remain valid. However, the enforceable provisions of section 290 do not provide a truly comprehensive registration scheme for transient offenders. We urge the Legislature to reconsider the matter.

Our Intent is to Point Out a few things in this case:

1. Due Process Standards of Clarity
"The due process concept of fair warning is the underpinning of the vagueness doctrine, which `bars enforcement of "a statute which either forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application."` (United States v. Lanier [ (1997) ] 520 U.S. 259, 266, 117 S.Ct. 1219, 137 L.Ed.2d 432, quoting Connolly v. General Construction Co. (1926) 269 U.S. 385, 391, 46 S.Ct. 126, 70 L.Ed. 322; Lanzetta v. New Jersey (1939) 306 U.S. 451, 453, 59 S.Ct. 618, 83 L.Ed. 888 [` No one may be required at peril of life, liberty or property to speculate as to the meaning of penal statutes.'].) Recently, the United States Supreme Court had this to say on the topic: `Vagueness may invalidate a criminal law for either of two independent reasons. First, it may fail to provide the kind of notice that will enable ordinary people to understand what conduct it prohibits; second, it may authorize and even encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.' (Chicago v. Morales (1999) 527 U.S. 41, 56, [119 S.Ct. 1849, 144 L.Ed.2d 67][].)" (People v. Castenada (2000) 23 Cal.4th 743, 751, 97 Cal.Rptr.2d 906, 3 P.3d 278.)

... ... ...

2. Section 290 and Transient Sex Offenders
The purpose of section 290 is to assure that sex offenders are readily available for police surveillance, because they are deemed likely to commit similar offenses in the future. (Wright v. Superior Court (1997) 15 Cal.4th 521, 527, 63 Cal.Rptr.2d 322, 936 P.2d 101; People v. Castellanos (1999) 21 Cal.4th 785, 796, 88 Cal.Rptr.2d 346, 982 P.2d 211.) The registration system also provides information regarding high risk offenders that may be disclosed to the public, making it doubly important to maintain accurate registration information. (§ 290, subds.(m) & (n); § 290.4; Wright v. Superior Court, supra, 15 Cal.4th at p. 529, 63 Cal.Rptr.2d 322, 936 P.2d 101.)

North acknowledges the legislative purpose of the 1997 amendments adding "location" requirements was to bring transient sex offenders, who have no "residence," within the scope of section 290. However, the particular requirements North was found to have violated, and others governing his registration as a transient offender, were added after 1997. We will set out the relevant terms of section 290 as they were framed in 2000, when North's violations occurred, footnoting the legislative history of the pertinent amendments:

... ... ...

North contends these requirements are vague because the Legislature failed to specify what sorts of places qualify as "locations," which part of the day the offender must spend in a "location," how long, frequently, or regularly he must occupy a "location" before registration is required, and how precisely the "location" must be identified. The Attorney General construes "location" as parallel with "residence," to mean the place where a transient offender "spends the night." The Attorney General argues it is reasonable and practical to require transient offenders to identify the general area where they will be sleeping, with sufficient specificity to enable the police to find them. "We must select the construction that comports most closely with the apparent intent of the Legislature, with a view to promoting rather than defeating the general purpose of the statute, and avoid an interpretation that would lead to absurd consequences. [Citation.]" (People v. Jenkins (1995) 10 Cal.4th 234, 246, 40 Cal.Rptr.2d 903, 893 P.2d 1224.)

The Attorney General fails to grapple with the difficult element of time—how many nights, and for how long each night, must an offender spend in a particular place before it becomes a registerable "location"? The Redwood City police told North he had to tell them where he would sleep each night, but that requirement cannot be squared with the five-day grace period allowed for registration. In any event, what is the use of registering a briefly occupied "location?" The utility of obtaining registrations for places slept in only for a night or two, and perhaps never returned to, is so questionable as to cast serious doubt the Legislature intended such fleetingly relevant and rapidly accumulating information to be part of the registration scheme, which includes the forwarding of "location" information to and from the Department of Justice.

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