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US v Hatcher

3-13-2009 Virginia:

US v Hatcher
560 F.3d 222 (2009)

In these consolidated appeals, William T. Hatcher, Richard Dean Hinen, Gregory V. Roberts, and John Edward Sawn appeal their convictions. Each of the Appellants was convicted of knowingly failing to register or update their registration as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act ("SORNA"), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a) (2006). The Appellants argue that SORNA is unconstitutional because it is not a valid exercise of congressional authority and because it violates the non-delegation doctrine, the Ex Post Facto Clause, and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. However, we need not reach these constitutional questions because we find that, as a matter of statutory interpretation, SORNA's registration requirements did not apply to the Appellants at the time they committed the acts giving rise to their indictments. Therefore, we must reverse the convictions and vacate the sentences imposed in connection with those convictions.

The Appellants were convicted of sex offenses in state courts between 1993 and 2001. All of the Appellants had finished serving the sentences imposed on them for those offenses prior to July 27, 2006, the enactment date of SORNA. As a result of their convictions, the Appellants were required to register under the sex offender registration systems of their respective states, and all of the Appellants initially complied with those registration requirements. At various times between July 27, 2006, and February 28, 2007, the Appellants moved to other states and failed to comply with SORNA's continuing registration requirements.

The Appellants were indicted on one count of traveling in interstate or foreign commerce and knowingly failing to register or update a sex offender registration as required by SORNA, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a) (2006). Each of the Appellants was indicted after February 28, 2007.1 The Appellants filed motions to dismiss their respective indictments, but those motions were denied by the district courts.2 Hatcher, Roberts, and Sawn each entered a conditional guilty plea, preserving the right to appeal the denial of the motion to dismiss. Hinen was convicted in a jury trial.

... ... ...

It is important to note that the decision reached today is quite narrow, for we do not hold that SORNA's registration requirements do not apply to persons who were convicted of sex offenses prior to SORNA's enactment date. Rather, we hold only that SORNA's registration requirements did not apply to pre-SORNA offenders until the Attorney General issued the interim rule on February 28, 2007.

Because the Appellants' indictments were based on conduct that pre-dated the Attorney General's interim rule specifying that SORNA's registration requirements applied to pre-SORNA offenders, we reverse the Appellants' convictions and vacate the sentences imposed in connection with those convictions.


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