The U.S. Supreme Court Monday held that, while the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (2006) "makes it a federal crime for any person (1) who 'is required to register under [SORNA],' and (2) who 'travels in interstate or foreign commerce,' to (3) 'knowingly fail to register or update a registration', 18 U. S. C. §2250(a),….. That section does not apply to sex offenders whose interstate travel occurred before SORNA’s effective date." [Carr v. United States (08-1301)]
Appellant Thomas Carr pleaded guilty in an Alabama state court to first-degree sexual abuse in May 2004, wherein he was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment, with all but two years suspended. Receiving credit for time previously served, Carr was released on probation on July 3, 2004, and registered as a sex offender as required by Alabama law. But in late 2004 or early 2005, prior to SORNA’s enactment, he relocated from Alabama to Indiana, not complying with Indiana’s sex-offender registration requirements. In July 2007, Carr came to the attention of law enforcement in Fort Wayne, Indiana, following his involvement in a fight. On August 22, 2007, federal prosecutors filed an indictment in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana charging Carr with failing to register in violation of §2250. Carr moved to dismiss the indictment, asserting that because he traveled to Indiana prior to SORNA’s effective date, it would violate the Ex Post Facto Clause to prosecute him under §2250. District Court denied his motion. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit consolidated Carr's appeal with that of a similarly situated defendant, who, in addition to raising an ex post facto claim, asserted that §2250, by its terms, does not apply to persons whose interstate travel preceded SORNA’s enactment.
The Court in its considerations noted that there was division among the appeal courts with respect to the meaning of Section 2250’s "travel requirement." Aligning itself with the Seventh Circuit, the Eleventh Circuit analogized 18 U. S. C.§2250(a) to the felon-in-possession statute, §922(g), and applied it to a sex offender who traveled before SORNA became applicable to him [ United States v. Dumont, 555 F. 3d 1288 (2009)]. In contrast, the Eighth Circuit has stated in dictum that §2250(a) “punishes convicted sex offenders who travel in interstate commerce after the enactment of SORNA." [United States v. May, 535 F. 3d 912, 920 (2008)]. There was also a separate conflict among the Courts of Appeals as to when SORNA’s registration requirements became applicable to persons convicted of sex offenses prior to the statute’s enactment.