Congress has the authority to require federal sex offenders to re-register in the state where they live, work, or study whether or not they travel inter-state, a federal appeals court ruled December 30.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and sentence of Franklin Carel Jr., who was 22 years of age in 2006 when he impregnated a 14-year-old on Southern Ute Indian Tribe lands in southwestern Colorado.
The Southern Ute Social Service Department became aware of the pregnancy and Carel later pled guilty to sexual abuse of a minor in Indian country. The appeals court petition did not specify whether he is a Southern Ute tribal member.
He was sentenced to time served and three years of supervised release under provisions of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which requires compliance with state sex offender registries where the offender “resides, works or is a student.”
Although Carel initially registered, he did not re-register three months later, as required, and he was convicted in 2010 for knowingly failing to update even though he had not changed his residence to another state.
He contended SORNA’s sex offender provision is unconstitutional, but the panel held that the registration provision is “a constitutional exercise of Congress’ authority.”
The judges noted that over the years, the 10th Circuit has rejected “numerous constitutional challenges to SORNA,” but has not specifically addressed whether Congress required federal sex offenders to comply with its registration requirements.
Among other provisions, SORNA imposes registration for all sex offenders regardless of whether they travel in interstate commerce. Some courts have asserted Congress cannot federally criminalize a sex offender’s failure to register in a state-run data base, while circuit courts have concluded the law is constitutional.