A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Supreme Court rules sex offender registration law does not apply retroactively

The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] in Carr v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder, JURIST report] that the failure to register provision [18 USC § 2250] of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) does not apply retroactively to offenses occurring before SORNA's enactment. Authoring the opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor reversed the lower court ruling after reviewing the statutory language stating, "That § 2250 sets forth the travel requirement in the present tense ("travels") rather than in the past or present perfect ("traveled" or "has traveled") reinforces the conclusion that pre-enactment travel falls outside the statute's compass." Justice Anthony Scalia wrote separately, concurring in part and dissenting in part. Justice Samuel Alito wrote in dissent stating that it "hobbles" an important part of SORNA. He was joined in his dissent by Justices Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The court agreed to hear the case [JURIST report] in order to reconcile a split in the reading of the statute between the Seventh and Tenth Circuit Courts. The court was also asked to address the ex post facto [US Constitution Article I § 3] nature of the statute, but found it unnecessary to do so in this case.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.