May 25, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Sex Offenders Have Continuing Duty to Keep Registration Information Up-to-Date

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Lewis on Tuesday, September 30, 2014.

Marcus Lewis pleaded guilty to statutory rape in Missouri in 1996 and was sentenced to five years’ probation. He later served prison time because of a probation violation. Under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), Lewis was required for life to register as a sex offender. He last registered in Kansas in May 2011, and has not voluntarily registered in any state since then. SORNA requires sex offenders to register where they live, work, or attend school, and requires offenders to report any change in status to authorities.

In August 2011, a sheriff’s deputy in Kansas tried to locate Lewis for a warrant unrelated to his previous sex offense. The deputy used Lewis’s last known address from the sex offender registry, but learned that Lewis no longer lived there. Unable to find Lewis, the deputy alerted U.S. Marshals, who found a car associated with Lewis at the residence of his relatives in Missouri. Over a year later, Lewis was arrested in Atlanta on the Kansas warrant. In an interview with a U.S. Marshal, Lewis admitted that he had not registered because of the outstanding warrants. A federal grand jury indicted Lewis on one count of failing to register, and after a bench trial, Lewis was convicted. Following the conviction, Lewis filed a motion for judgment of acquittal, claiming improper venue and that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction. His motion was denied, and Lewis appealed.

Lewis contended that venue in Kansas was improper, because he abandoned his home in Kansas, traveled through Missouri, and eventually settled in Georgia. Lewis argued that any SORNA violation occurred outside Kansas. The Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding that under SORNA, Lewis was required to report within three days that he had abandoned his Kansas residence or register in a new location within three days, so venue was proper in the departure district. Lewis also argued that he had abandoned his Kansas residence before the date listed on the indictment, but the Tenth Circuit found this argument flawed, as Lewis had a continuing requirement to update his information. Lewis next argued that his next registration date had not occurred at the time the sheriff discovered his abandonment of the Kansas residence, but the Tenth Circuit disagreed with his reasoning, as the purpose of SORNA is to keep registrations current regardless of where the offender resides, not to maintain one registration and allow the offender to be transitory as long as that one registration is maintained. Finally, Lewis argued that the government’s theory of the case was inherently flawed because it required a sex offender to notify the departure state of any change in location. The Tenth Circuit, however, determined that this was only partially true — sex offenders have a continuing requirement to update their registration, and if the offender does not re-register within three days of departure, the offender has the duty to notify the departing location of his departure.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment.

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