Supreme Court supports sex offender in dispute over registration

A view of the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by Indianz.Com

A sex offender who left Kansas and moved to another country did not need to update his registration after he left, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday.

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act requires offenders to notify states, tribes and other jurisdictions of changes in residence, employment or schooling. But Lester Ray Nichols did not need to inform Kansas of his new address because he no longer "resides" there and the Phillipines, where he moved, is not a jurisdiction covered by the law, the court said.

"If the drafters of SORNA had thought about the problem of sex offenders who leave the country and had sought to require them to (de)register in the departure jurisdiction, they could easily have said so," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the unanimous decision.

The decision resolves a split between the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. But since Kansas law and other federal laws could cover Nichols's activities, the court said its decision wouldn't lead to jurisdictional "loopholes."

"Our interpretation of the SORNA provisions at issue in this case in no way means that sex offenders will be able to escape punishment for leaving the United States without notifying the jurisdictions in which they lived while in this country," the decision read.

Since SORNA became law in 2006, tribal members have been convicted for failing to inform tribes and other jurisdictions about changes in their living situations. Their challenges to SORNA have been repeatedly rejected in the courts.

Get the Story:
Supreme Court says federal law didn’t require Kansas sex offender leaving country to notify authorities (AP 4/4)
Supreme Court sides with sex offender in registry dispute (The Hill 4/4)

Supreme Court Decision:
Nichols v. US (April 4, 2016)

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