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Supreme Court to address sex offender registry issues

The Supreme Court justices will be reviewing a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 5th Circuit. A U.S. airman was court-martialed for allegedly having sex with an underage girl. He was confined for three months and faced a bad conduct discharge. Following that, he moved around Texas for about nine years. In 2008, he was arrested because he had not informed officials of his whereabouts for the sex offender registry.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in the 5th Circuit dismissed his conviction as he was released from his sentence by the federal government before the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act became law. The Court of Appeals said that because he was released prior to the enforcement of the sex offender registry, it did not apply to him. The Supreme Court will be reviewing that decision.

This case presents an important aspect of the law: when things change, does it have an affect retroactively? How much should someone who has been convicted or accused of a crime be expected to keep track of the frequent changes in the law?

In this case, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not this man was in the wrong, though he had served his time already. Likely, the fact that he was court-martialed and subject to the military system under the federal government will have a part to play in his case, which could complicate it some.

For people who have been accused of a crime, whether in connection with changing laws or simply brought up on criminal charges, having an experienced defense attorney on their side can be an excellent resource to ensure that their rights are well-represented in the face of a vigorous prosecution.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Court to hear arguments on sex offender registry," Jan. 11, 2013

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As Published in Washingtonian Magazine | Washington's Best Legal Minds | 2013