WASHINGTON, June 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 Tuesday a sex offender moving to another state didn't have to update his registration if he moved before a law took effect.
The 2006 Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act requires sex offenders to register, and makes it a crime for any person required to register to fail to update his registration when moving to another state.
Thomas Carr pleaded guilty in Alabama to first-degree sexual abuse and was sentenced to 15 years, with all but two years suspended. Receiving credit for time previously served, Carr was released on probation July 3, 2004, and registered as a sex offender as required by Alabama law.
In late 2004 or early 2005, prior to SORNA's enactment, Carr relocated from Alabama to Indiana, court records say. He did not comply with Indiana's sex-offender registration requirements. In July 2007, Carr became involved in a fight in Fort Wayne, Ind., drawing the attention of police, and federal prosecutors charged Carr in Indiana with failing to register after moving in violation of the federal law.
A federal appeals court in Chicago affirmed his conviction, but the Supreme Court reversed.
Writing for the majority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said charging Carr with a SORNA violation for activity occurring before the law came into effect violated the ex post facto clause of the Constitution, which bans after the fact prosecutions.
She said the key was that an offender had to become subject to SORNA in the first place before going to another state and failing to register.