Supreme Court rules on sex offender registration act
Supreme Court rules on sex offender registration act
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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled 7-2 [opinion, PDF] Monday in Reynolds v. United States [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) [final guidelines, PDF] does not require pre-act offenders to register before the attorney general validly specifies that the act’s registration provisions apply to them. The attorney general determined in 2007 that all states would have to follow the federal rule to keep registration current. Billy Joe Reynolds pleaded guilty for failure to register his new address but attempted to challenge the application of SORNA against him because his sex offender conviction in 2001 predated the attorney general’s rule change. The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that this did not give him standing to challenge the rule’s application. In an opinion delivered by Justice Stephen Breyer, the Supreme Court reversed:

The Act defines the term “sex offender” as including these pre-Act offenders. … It says that “[a] sex offender shall register.” … And it further says that “[t]he Attorney General shall have the authority to specify the applicability of the [registration] requirements … to sex offenders convicted before the enactment of this chapter ….” … In our view, these provisions, read together, mean that the Act’s registration requirements do not apply to pre-Act offenders until the Attorney General specifies that they do apply.

Justice Antonin Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled in US v. Juvenile Male [JURIST report] that the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had no authority to rule that the requirements SORNA violate the ex post facto [Cornell LII backgrounder] clause of the Constitution when applied to juveniles adjudicated as delinquent before SORNA’s enactment. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in Carr v. United States [JURIST report] that the failure to register provision of SORNA does not apply retroactively to offenses occurring before SORNA’s enactment.