Sex Offenders Can’t Be Charged Retroactively For Failing To Register

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court held sex offenders who moved states before February 2007 cannot be retroactively charged with violations of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). In Michigan – and in every other state in the U.S. – individuals convicted of crimes of a sexual nature or sex-related offenses are required to register as sex offenders. Under SORNA, sex offenders who move must update their registration when they cross state lines.

In Carr v. United States, the Supreme Court reviewed whether an Alabama man – Thomas Carr – could be convicted of a SORNA violation for actions taken before the law was enacted. Here, Carr failed to register as a sex offender when he moved to Indiana in late 2004 following his release from custody in Alabama on a conviction of first-degree sexual abuse.

After being arrested in 2007 on an unrelated matter, the omission was discovered and Carr was charged with violating SORNA. Although he pled guilty, Carr reserved the right to appeal based on the ex post facto issue, i.e. that the indictment should be dismissed since he traveled to Indiana before SORNA was in effect.

An Indiana federal judge disagreed and sentenced Carr to 30 months in prison. The 7th Circuit upheld the conviction and sentence. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that in order for a violation to occur, both the travel and the failure to register must take place after SORNA took effect.

SORNA, as well as Michigan’s Public Sex Offender Registry (PSOR), can be complicated. Registering as a sex offender may significantly impact your everyday life with the potential loss of job opportunities, loss of the freedom to live or visit wherever you’d like and even the freedom to attend some schools.


If you or someone you love has been charged with a sex crime and is facing the possibility of having to register, please contact Grabel & Associates. We understand how important it is to keep your name off the list and will fight to protect your future.

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