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US v DeJarnette Jr

11-18-2013 California:

US v Alexander DeJarnette, Jr.


The panel reversed a judgment of conviction for failure to register as a sex offender in violation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, and remanded for entry of a judgment of acquittal.

The panel held that the Attorney General has not yet “validly specifie[d]” that 42 U.S.C. § 16913(a)’s requirement of registration in the jurisdiction of the sex-offense conviction (if different from the jurisdiction of residence) applies to pre-Act offenders like the defendant who were, at the time of SORNA’s enactment and implementation, already subject to sex offender registration obligations.

The panel concluded that the district court’s jury instruction erroneously permitting the jury to convict solely on the basis of the defendant’s failure to register in the jurisdiction of his sex-offense conviction was not harmless.

Dissenting, Judge Graber wrote that the Attorney General’s regulations validly specify that SORNA’s registration requirements apply to all sex offenders, including pre-SORNA offenders; that the defendant was notified of his initial registration requirement in the jurisdiction of his sexoffense conviction; and that the jury was properly instructed.
Note: This summary constitutes no part of the opinion of the court. It has been prepared by court staff for the convenience of the reader.

Alexander DeJarnette is a federal sex offender who failed to register as such and was convicted of violating the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”). Pub. L. No. 109-248, 120 Stat. 587 (codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 16901 et seq., 18 U.S.C. § 2250 (2006)).

On appeal, he challenges the district court’s interpretation of SORNA as imposing upon him an obligation to register in the jurisdiction of his sex-offense conviction, the Northern District of California, even though the evidence shows that he resided in a different jurisdiction (the State of Georgia) throughout the period charged in his indictment.

He contends that, because he had no legal duty to register in the Northern District of California, the district court’s contrary jury instruction was erroneous as a matter of law, venue was improper in the Northern District of California, and his nonregistration conviction is not supported by sufficient evidence. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and, for the following reasons, we reverse the conviction.

eAdvocate FYI Note: A little known AWA requirement which I've never seen enforced after-the-fact, until the decision above, is:

42 USC 16913
a) In general
A sex offender shall register, and keep the registration current, in each jurisdiction where the offender resides, where the offender is an employee, and where the offender is a student. For initial registration purposes only, a sex offender shall also register in the jurisdiction in which convicted if such jurisdiction is different from the jurisdiction of residence.

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