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SCOTUS to Hear SORNA Commerce Clause Case

September 30, 2009

Sentencing Law & Policy : SCOTUS cert grants.
Google/AP : Court asked if old offenses can get new penalties.

Docket: 08-1301 Carr v. United States
Issue: Whether a person may be criminally prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 2250for failure to register when the defendant’s underlying offense and travel in interstate commerce both predated the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act’s enactment ; whether the Ex Post Facto Clause precludes prosecution under § 2250(a) of a person whose underlying offense and travel in interstate commerce both predated SORNA’s enactment.

The Supreme Court will decide whether sex offenders who didn’t register with state officials before harsher punishments went into effect can still be sentenced to extra time in prison. (with regard to Interstate Commerce)

The high court on Wednesday agreed to hear an appeal from Thomas Carr, who pleaded guilty to sexual abuse in Alabama. When released from prison in 2004, he moved to Indiana but didn’t register with that state’s sexual offender database.

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which increased penalties for not registering, was not passed until 2006. But when Carr was arrested in 2007, he was charged using that law and sentenced to 37 months in prison. Carr appealed, saying prosecutors should not have used a law that wasn’t in existence when he committed his crime.

But the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said that when the law was passed, Congress did not say it did not apply retroactively.

Other courts have said that the law — SORNA — cannot be applied retroactively, and Carr wants the high court to resolve the conflict.

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