Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Brown: SORNA provides adequate registration requirement notice

In U.S. v. Brown, No. 08-17244 (Nov. 5, 2009), the Court affirmed a conviction for failure to register as a sex offender, as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), and the imposition of a sentence that included a life term of supervised release.

On plain error review, the Court rejected a challenge to the life term of supervised release was invalid. At his guilty plea colloquy, the court incorrectly told the defendant that he faced a maximum three-year term of supervised release. The PSI correctly stated the life term. The Court noted the error at the guilty plea colloquy was plain, but there was no prejudice because Brown did not establish that he would not have pled guilty had he known that the maximum supervised release term was life instead of three years.

The Court rejected the argument that Brown could not have violated SORNA by failing to register in Alabama when he moved to Alabama, as SORNA required, because Alabama had not yet implemented the SORNA requirements. The Court explained that Alabama’s requirements were different from Brown’s, and that Alabama already had a sex offender registry in place.

The Court also rejected Brown’s Due Process challenge to the registration requirement. The Court found that, by pleading guilty, he had waived the factual argument that he was prevented from registering. The Court also found that Brown received adequate notice of the registration requirement. The Court noted that Brown had actual knowledge of his duty to register in Alabama. Further, there were circumstances that would have prompted Brown to inquire further, including his own past compliance with the registration requirement in another state (North Carolina).