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USA -v- Collins

12-9-2014 West Virginia:

USA -v- Collins

Dwaine Allen Collins was convicted of knowingly failing to register as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). The district court sentenced Collins to 30 months’ imprisonment and ten years of supervised release. On this direct appeal, Collins contests his conviction primarily on the grounds that the government failed to prove an essential element of a SORNA violation: that he knew he had an obligation to register.

In support, he points to comments made by a state court judge in a separate proceeding, which in Collins’s view suggest that his obligation to register had expired. We agree with the district court, however, that the state judge appeared to be giving advice rather than a binding legal opinion. Moreover, there is substantial evidence in the record to support the district court’s conclusion that Collins knowingly avoided an obligation to register as a sex offender. We thus find Collins’s claim unpersuasive and affirm his conviction.

Collins also appeals his sentence. We find his 30-month term of imprisonment, which is within the applicable Guidelines range, to be reasonable and thus affirm the district court’s sentence in that respect. As to the term of supervised release, however, the United States Sentencing Commission recently issued a clarifying amendment stating that a failure to register under SORNA is not a “sex offense” for the purposes of the Guidelines. Consequently, we vacate the supervised release portion of Collins’s sentence and remand for further proceedings.

... ... ... ...

For the reasons provided above, we affirm Collins’s conviction and his term of imprisonment, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion as to his term of supervised release.

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