United States v. DeJarnette

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 12-20-2013
  • Case #: 11-10606
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Tashima for the Court; Circuit Judge Noonan; Dissent by Circuit Judge Graber
  • Full Text Opinion

The initial registration requirement under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, under which an offender must register in the jurisdiction of conviction regardless of jurisdiction of residence, does not currently apply to pre-Act offenders already subject to other registration obligations.

In 2001, a California court convicted Alexander DeJarnette of multiple counts of transporting minors with intent to engage in prostitution and criminal sexual activities. While serving his prison sentence, officials informed DeJarnette of his duty to register as a sex offender, and DeJarnette repeatedly refused to sign the notification form. After his release, DeJarnette continued to refuse to register pursuant to the terms of his supervised release program, despite repeated attempts by probation officers and courts to get him to do so. In 2008, DeJarnette absconded to Georgia until he was apprehended and returned to California. He was then convicted for failing to register as a sex offender in California under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”). Noting that SORNA was enacted five years after DeJarnette’s initial conviction, the Ninth Circuit found no support to apply SORNA’s initial registration requirement to DeJarnette. The panel found there is no guidance by the Attorney General that those offenders convicted prior to SORNA and already subject to registration obligations are required to register in the jurisdiction of their conviction when they reside elsewhere. Because DeJarnette resided in Georgia when he was charged, the panel held that the jury instruction given during trial regarding DeJarnette’s need to register under SORNA was erroneous because it allowed a conviction based solely on DeJarnette’s failure to register. The panel held that the error was not harmless because there was no evidence DeJarnette resided, was employed, or was a student in California, and the jury instruction incorrectly stated DeJarnette’s duty to register in California and the conviction was based solely on that instruction. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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