September 20, 2017

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant Lacked Fixed Address and was Charged with Failure to Register as Sex Offender Under Incorrect Statute

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Jones on Thursday, September 7, 2017.

Sex Offender—Failure to Register—Evidence—Address—C.R.S. § 16-22-108(3)(i)—C.R.S. § 18-3-412.5(1)(g).

Jones was required to register as a sex offender. In 2011, he registered as a sex offender with the Aurora Police Department (Aurora P.D.) in Colorado. In August 2012, Jones was released from prison onto parole in an unrelated case, and he was given a voucher to stay at a particular motel in Aurora (and in Adams County). On August 12, 2012, Jones updated his sex offender registration with the Aurora P.D., listing the motel’s address as his new residence. On August 20, 2012, when the voucher expired, Jones left the motel and did not return. He did not report a change of address with the Aurora P.D. and did not register as a sex offender with any other local law enforcement agency in Adams County or in any other jurisdiction in Colorado until 2013. The People charged him with failure to register as a sex offender between August 26, 2012 and November 28, 2012.

At the close of evidence of his trial, Jones moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that (1) the prosecution presented no evidence of where he resided during the relevant time period, and (2) ceasing to reside at an address and thereafter lacking a fixed residence does not fall within the meaning of “changing an address” under C.R.S. 18-3-412.5(10(g). The trial court denied the motion, and Jones was convicted of the charge.

On appeal, Jones contended that the evidence at trial was insufficient to prove that he failed to register “upon changing an address” under C.R.S. § 18-3-412.5(1)(g). The Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act (Act), C.R.S. §§ 16-22-101 to -115, requires sex offenders to register with the local law enforcement agency where the person resides. C.R.S. § 16-22-108(3)(i) criminalizes the failure to register upon “ceasing to reside at an address and [thereafter] lacking a fixed residence.” A violation of this section must be charged under the catchall provision in C.R.S. § 18-3-412.5(1). Here, the prosecution elected to charge Jones only under C.R.S. § 18-3-412.5(1)(g), which criminalizes the “[f]ailure to register with the local law enforcement agency in each jurisdiction in which the person resides upon changing an address, establishing an additional residence, or legally changing names.” Although Jones was required to register as a sex offender in each jurisdiction where he resided, there was no evidence that Jones had a fixed residence during any portion of the relevant time period. Because the evidence at trial did not establish a violation of C.R.S. § 18-3-412.5(1)(g), he was wrongfully convicted under that statutory provision.

The judgment was vacated.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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