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SCOTUS: No registration update required after moving out of the country (Nichols)

The Court issued two opinions on Monday morning. In Nichols v. United States, in an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, the Court unanimously ruled that the Sex Offender Notification and Registration Act did not require Nichols, a registered sex offender, to update his registration in Kansas once he left the state. Opinion

Oral Argument (Mar 1)

Transcript

Related

SCOTUS: Justices weigh whether sex offenders should be tracked worldwide (CA RSOL)

Argument preview: When a sex offender moves out of the country, does he have to tell anyone? [UPDATED] (CA RSOL)

The Supreme Court says a convicted sex offender did not have to update his status on the federal sex offender registry after moving to a foreign country (AP)

Supreme Court sides with sex offender in registry dispute

Join the discussion

  1. Eric Knight

    8-0 SHUTOUT!!!

    Sorry about the all-caps violation, but this is signficant. Too bad this decision wasn’t rendered before the arguments in San Francisco last week, as this decition would have been among the strongest arguments used. At least the judge can now consider this decision in her granting a stay.

    SIDE NOTE: In siding with our side finally, is John Roberts starting to realize that registration is not as simple as filling out a Price Club application? Will this bode well for potentially taking in more registration cases?

    • Jason

      I hate to sound negative here, but this isn’t the victory that you proclaimed it was.

      This was still a violation of state law. His conduct is now a violation under IML, and this case was not decided on constitutional grounds but on “plain reading of the law”, so there’s no reason this ruling suggests they would strike down IML.

      In fact, Alito actually commented that this doesn’t create a loophole BECAUSE of IML. If anything, that suggests he will uphold IML.

    • Eric Knight

      Oops, just read it thoroughly. Alito acknowledges IML actually covers the loopholes going forward; just not for this defendent. Kind of a sledgehammer, but at least the decision is still a step in the right direction.

      • Joe

        SORNA, since 2011, before Nichols left, has required 21 day advanced notification for international travel.

        “(3) Require jurisdictions to have sex offenders report international travel 21
        days in advance of such travel and to submit information concerning such travel to the appropriate Federal agencies and databases. ”

        http://www.smart.gov/pdfs/SORNAFinalSuppGuidelines01_11_11.pdf p 1631

        As Alito states “The requirement in §16913(c) to appear in person and register “not later than 3 business days after each change of . . . residence” points to the same conclusion. Nichols could not have appeared in person in Kansas “after” leaving
        the State. ”

        The same is true for registrants of non-SORNA states, who become subject to this federal law the SECOND they leave their non-SORNA state and are required to go back in time 21 days to give notice.

        This is just a bunch of verbal gymnastics. The highest court of the land arguing about past or present tense. What a joke.

        And again with ‘loopholes and deficiencies’ that had resulted in an estimated 100,000 sex offenders becoming ‘missing’ or ‘lost.’. So tiresome…

        • PK

          As Janice mentioned, for non-SORNA States, there is no mechanism in place for those RSO’s to provide notification, to anyone for anything. And for those of us who are not required to register in their non-SORNA state that they now reside? No mechanism.

        • David Kennerly

          With IML, the government is now empowered to implement such a mechanism, to be revealed.

        • PK

          By the time they implement whatever BS they want to implement, I will be long gone.

    • Foreign resident

      This decision is MOOT, completely insignificant. International Megan’s Law supersedes it. Under the new law, Nichols would have been required to notify authorities of his travel, and the US would have been required to notify the Philippines of his arrival. Good luck arriving…

  2. Joe

    Not wanting to sound like a wet blanket, but is this true? SORNA required international travel notification in 2012. Are they referring to IML?

    The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that registered sex offenders do not have to update their status on a state registry when they move out of the country.

    In an 8-0 decision, the justices said a straightforward reading of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act did not require Lester Nichols to notify Kansas that he moved to the Philippines in November 2012.

    The case, however, will have little impact since Congress recently passed legislation that requires sex offenders to notify the government when they leave the U.S.

    “Our interpretation of the SORNA provisions at issue in this case in no way means that sex offenders will be able to escape punishment for leaving the United States without notifying the jurisdictions in which they lived while in this country,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s opinion. “Congress has recently criminalized the ‘knowing failure to provide information required by SORNA relating to intended travel in foreign commerce.'”

    Alito wrote that federal law now requires registered sex offenders to report their anticipated dates and places of departure, arrival or return; their carrier and flight numbers for air travel; destination country and address or other contact information while there.

    “Both parties agree that the new law captures Nichols’s conduct,” he said.

    http://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/275075-supreme-court-sides-with-sex-offender-in-registry-dispute

    • G12

      So I’m confused…if registration is merely a regulatory measure then why is the judge stating it as “punishment” that must be adhered to?

      “Our interpretation of the SORNA provisions at issue in this case in no way means that sex offenders will be able to escape punishment for leaving the United States without notifying the jurisdictions in which they lived while in this country,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s opinion.

      Can we now use this to show that all of the rules that they keep springing amongst us are in fact ‘punishment’? If the judge sees it as punishment, then why shouldn’t it be classified as such?

      • PK

        In fact- That is one great point

        This should be noted by Janice’s Team.

      • Nicholas Maietta

        Nice catch.

      • Jason

        He didn’t say the registry was punishment. He stated that there exists punishment for violating the registry.

        • Timmr

          You’re right. He means registration is not punishment. Nonetheless, failure to register requires a punishment. Remember the reasoning behind why failure to register is in the penal code and not in the civil code. That is how the argument was posed in 2003. There is nothing new here.

      • HOOKSCAR

        Exactly my point James. Ergo, the regestry in of itself is punitive. Without the registry there would not be any punishment.

  3. Mike r

    alito states in no way does this let offenders escape punishment…wait i thought registration wasn’t punishment i hope janice noticed that he stated it is punishment

  4. Mike r

    sounds like west Germany before the wall came down

  5. HOOKSCAR

    Houston, we have a problem. Alito calls this punishment. Yet SCOTUS ruled the registry regulatory. Like to see the double talk on this.

    • steve

      I think what he means is the punishment the defendant would get by not following the law.

      • HOOKSCAR

        The punishment Alito referred to was registration.

        • Jason

          Unfortunately, no. The crime was violating the registry. The punishment is whatever the law says the punishment is for that violation.

          Don’t get me wrong, I agree in principal that the registry is punishment, but Alito’s statement isn’t the smoking gun.

  6. USA

    Well done! I’m very happy for him. This was certainly a disturbing story/they hunted him down to a foreign country and deported him back to the US/I’m sure this was very embarrassing and stressful. My only concern now is, will the Philippines allow him to return with their current band. Best wishes

  7. Alito confirms it is punishment

    If this topic went back to SCOTUS, then you will know you have one vote in favor of calling it punishment. However, since Justice Alito did not join SCOTUS until after the Smith v Doe (No. 01—729) opinion was given March 2003 (https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/01-729.ZS.html), it would require a new vote on this topic from a different angle.

    NOW…he did replace Justice O’Connor who voted it was not punishment. Therefore, the high court would be in favor of finding it being labeled as punishment provided the vote was taken today possibly with all else remaining the same. A yay vote replacing a nay vote in favor of calling it punishment and against the Constitution.

    (***Justice Alito was the 2006 nomination where our current POTUS filibustered his nomination. There is a new SCOTUS nominee now who could very well vote in favor of calling it punishment too to counter Justice Scalia’s vote of not calling it punishment. That could take two votes away from the non-punishment opinion and added to the punishment opinion, making a swing to 6-3 all else being the same. A new tact and angle would need to be found and litigated I believe for SCOUTS to review this punishment vs non-punishment topic and possibly ex posto facto.)

    Therefore, get on the phone, etc and have the new nominee voted on by the Congress.

  8. frogs

    Here is the SCOTUS Blog: http://www.scotusblog.com/2016/04/opinion-analysis-news-item-the-convicted-sex-offender-wins-unanimously/

    ” In response to questioning by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at oral argument, the government conceded that Nichols’s situation would have been covered by this new law. With that concession, the parade of horribles — the specter of hundreds of convicted sex offenders stealing away in the dead of night to foreign havens of libertinism, with no way to track them down – disappeared.”

    This is all fallacy and BS..stats and facts please?

  9. Timmmy

    Does this means he is entitled to millions in punitive compensation for kidnapping, false arrest, and false imprisonment? In addition the US government return him to the Philippines?

    • jo

      And there is the rub…he won’t be allowed back into the country

  10. Terry

    Correct me if I’m wrong, please. SORNA is a Federal “Guideline.” But the states have their own rules…there is no Federal “law” per se. A state is either non-compliant (no 21 day notification requirement, for example), partially compliant (maybe they have 21 day notification rule, but have other provisions that vary from SORNA), or they have adapted 100% of SORNA and are judged to be compliant. So the 21 day notification could be enforced only after the individual state has adopted it. Washington State for example had not adopted it when it first hit the books. I traveled to South America in 2013 and it was not required by my state at that time, but now it is. These things may all change under IML.
    Hopefully, the Court will not miss the major point that equating all people on the registry to rapists, molesters, and predators involved in the sex trade, is cruelly over reaching and insanely broad. This is creating a Class where none existed before. Judges determine punishment in every case based on the specifics of the crime and the particular defendant. How can they turn their backs on that sacred principle, and punish everyone in a group the same way? The logic defies me. Only in America, I guess.

  11. Stumped

    Does this law apply to all those who have to register? I guess my real question is how does this apply to someone who has dual citizenship? If a person has citizenship both in The US and in Mexico does he still have to report, im assuming one has to report to the US that they are planning to travel to Mexico so once mexico finds out they can deny entry to that person. But if this said person has dual ciitizenship he cannot be denied entry into mexico based on his constitutional rights. So how will this law affect these kinds of cases? If a person has dual citizenship and both countries constitution states that they cannot be denied entry?

    • Rob

      I have dual citizenship. It is much easier to travel around the world this way. American passport is ONLY used for entry to the US, never anywhere else. There may be some of you who are eligible for dual citizenship also, based on family history. Do research, I did. Oh, yes, I was born here in the good ole (sarcastic) USA. I was planning on being at the meeting this Saturday, but I will be out of the country until Sat afternoon, but I will be at the next LA meeting, if anyone has any questions about dual citizenship.

      • Stumped

        Do you have any experiences traveling to Mexico with dual citizenship? That is my scenario now I have dual citizenship and I plan on traveling to Mexico with wife and kids, I know under the constitution in Mexico if I am a Mexican citizen I cannot be denied entry and the same goes for the US, will I be sent for secondary screening as they do here in the US? Also Mecican law requires you to come into Mexico with Mexican passport and leave with Mexican passport how would I do that? Please be detailed in how you go about your trips and thanks in advance.

        • Rob

          Stumped –
          When you leave the US, show the airline your MEXICAN passport (if US authorities ask to see your passport, they usually don’t, show your US one). WHen you arrive in Mexico, show your Mexican passport, upon departure, again show your Mexican passport, ONLY use your US passport for ENTRY into the US. I DO NOT have a Mexican passport, it’s European, but this is what I always do. You MAY have to go through the usual nonsense at US customs, but no where else will there be any issue.

        • Stumped

          Thanks Rob, do you reside in a SORNA or none SORNA state? Are you giving the 21 day notice of intent I travel since I see that you have been traveling recently is US IMMIGRATION, mentioning any of this when entering the country? Thanks again for being so helpful

  12. Alexander C. Miles

    The United States exercises jurisdiction over its citizens abroad under the ‘Nationality Principle.’ In light of this, some changes can be predicted to the SORNA, and to the statute governing renunciation of U.S. citizenship, in part due to the Nichols case.

    U.S. citizen’s residing abroad who are registered sex offenders will be required to register with the U.S. consulate or embassy, and the Department of State will be obligated to inform the governments of those foreign countries of the presence and the nature of the offense of the U.S. offender living in that foreign jurisdiction.
    Moreover,in the future, all registered U.S. citizen sex offenders temporarily visiting a foreign country will have to register with the U.S. Embassy within a given time following their arrival into the country. Their picture and personal information will be provided on a publicly available web-site by the Department of State, and the governments of the foreign countries will be notified of their presence.

    In addition, the statute governing renunciation will be amended such as not to permit registered sex offenders to renounce their citizenship as long as they remain registered. Any attempt to expatriate or move to a foreign country will become an extraditable offense, and the registered offender will be brought back to the United States, either by formal extradition proceedings, or by extraordinary rendition. Most likely any attempt to expatriate will lead to lifetime civil commitment as a sexually violent predator. Such commitment is not deemed to be punishment.

    This will not be considered punishment, but an effort to protect citizens world wide, and to assist the registered offender in enjoying the benefits and protection of U.S. laws.

    • mike

      Is this a fact? Where did you get this? It would be an extreme hardship to visit the US embassy in many foreign countries. Is this speculation on your part? I can see this happening but I sure hope not.

      • Joe

        No, it is NOT fact. (past the first sentence, anyway).

        He is looking into his personal crystal ball. A rather dark one, at that, but a personal prediction nevertheless.

        It should be more clearly marked as such.

    • Joe

      The US Government indeed has full jurisdiction over its citizens worldwide. It is one of only two countries (Eritrea being the other) that requires its citizens to pay US Taxes / file a US Tax return on world wide income even if the citizen has not lived in the US in years or decades and is a US Citizen strictly by birth (see City of London Mayor Boris Johnson’s recent tussle with the IRS).

      The US Government also has full jurisdiction over its citizen’s conduct worldwide. Most notably with the Protect Act of 2003 which criminalizes sexual conduct with persons under 16, worldwide, even if the country’s age of consent is well below that.

      The rest of your post, however, should be clearly marked as conjecture. It should be noted that previous iterations of IML did contain the reporting requirement at the foreign country’s US embassy for registrants living outside of the US. Chris Smith has been at this for a loooong time, and that never got any traction.

      That is not to say anything is impossible, but that remains to be seen.

      • David Kennerly

        Yes, I had to re-read it to to realize that he was “predicting” the future. Still, it is undoubtedly within the range of, what must certainly be, the ambitions of our tormentors. I would not wish to place any bets on the likelihood of such a scenario coming to pass. I would like to think that we have rounded the bend on such extreme measures but, given that IML passed and that a “constitutional law professor” President signed it into law, I’m afraid that it is not an entirely unreasonable speculation.

        Few are aware of the U.S. Government’s treatment of its citizens who wish to make their homes abroad and their subjection to taxes on all worldwide income. It also has, surprisingly to many, the highest corporate tax rates in the world, an inducement to many to offshore their country of registration.

        I told a friend of mine who lives in Amsterdam a few years ago that, because he had dual-citizenship, having been born in the U.S. to a Dutch mother and an American father, that he was subject to filing U.S. taxes despite having lived exclusively in The Netherlands since he was a young teenager (now more than 40 years ago). He was thoroughly shocked to discover this. I told him that he should be careful visiting the U.S., which he does occasionally to visit relatives, as he could be arrested for failing to file.

        The U.S. puts a huge burden on American citizens who wish to relinquish their citizenship, too, making them prepay all kinds of taxes on any U.S. holdings.

        Of course, for us the difficulty in doing so is much more extreme since all countries with which I am familiar require clean criminal records as a prerequisite to permanent residency and citizenship.

        The governments of the world are truly the enemy of freedom with our own being very far from the freest.

        At this point, I have little choice but to stay and fight.

  13. Unforgiven citizen

    I don’t understand this, is this saying if you have a Resident Visa in a foreign country which means They already know of your past crimal history, we still have to go to US Embassy to register and will be on a public Web site?

  14. Alexander C. Miles

    This is, as aptly noted, pure conjecture.

    However, it seems a logical extrapolation of what already has come to pass!

    Who would ever have thought that any country would openly stigmatize its citizens in international travel documents and obstruct their movement across international borders?

    The Nichols case will provide Congressman Smith with further incentive to pursue the next logical step, registration of any and all U.S. citizens abroad who are on the sex offender registry based on the nationality principle. And, while Smith is at it, he will slip by an amendment of the renunciation statute, to make sure they cannot circumvent registration by the expedient of expatriation.

    The U.S. wants to continue to help its registered citizens, who otherwise might not receive the supervision and support by the criminal justice system, and be totally abandoned and left to their own devices in liberal Northern European countries. Sex offenders might raise families and become integrated, productive members of society, instead of receiving help and possible civil commitment at the behest of the United States.
    Congressman Smith only wants to help registered U.S. citizens, not punish them.

    • PK

      “The Nichols case will provide Congressman Smith with further incentive to pursue the next logical step, registration of any and all U.S. citizens abroad who are on the sex offender registry based on the nationality principle.”

      He probably will not get very far with that idea.

      We are about to file a federal case that relates to RSO’s being forced to register in a particular state where they no longer work or reside. The Lawyer intends to use arguments based from the Nichols Case.

  15. Alexander C. Miles

    Dear PK:
    As a non RSO & non SO, but advocate of civil rights and supporter of the militia, I wish you the best of luck in all you endeavors.
    While trying not to be petty, your intended filing would pertain to states’ rights to assert jurisdiction of U.S. citizens who are no longer citizen’s of that particular state.
    The IML and SORNA, as it will be amended, in order to pander to U.S. constituents would apply to all U.S. citizens, regardless of past, present, or future state citizenship.
    A U.S. citizenship, by reason of birth into the most free republic the world has ever known, is subject to the jurisdiction of several sovereigns; at a very minimum the state where he was borne and the United States of America.
    It is the latter that wants to help its citizens from cradle to grave.

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