Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Featured Case - Nash - Sex Offender Registration

Nash v. Commonwealth

The specific rule of law from the case can be summarized as follows: a person will not have to register as a sex offender if they committed the sex offense before July 15, 1994 and were not incarcerated for that sex offense after July 15, 1998.

The facts: Nash was convicted of Third Degree Sodomy in 1993. He served out his sentence on October 1, 1997. At his release, he was required to register as a sex offender. He pled guilty to two separate failure to register misdemeanor offenses prior to the 2006 amendments. After the 2006 amendments, he entered a conditional guilty plea to a felony charge of failure to register.

The opinion: The Supreme Court held that Nash never should have had to register as sex offender. The Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) did not take effect until July 15, 1994. It only applied to people convicted of a sex offense after it took effect. The SORA was amended in 1998. It required people to register as sex offenders if they were sentenced or incarcerated for a sex offense after July 15, 1998, the effective date of the amendment. The 2000, 2006, 2007, and 2008 amendments did not apply to Nash either. Thus, the SC concluded that the SORA never should have applied to Nash because he was sentenced before 1994 and served out before 1998. The SC reversed his conviction, remanded his case, ordered the Circuit Court to dismiss his indictment and order his release.

Advice: I think the real practice pointer for trial attorneys is that this case serves as a reminder that they must be diligent and meticulous when handling cases that may have relatively simple facts but deal with complex statutes, such as sex offender registration or persistent felony offender.  Ed Monahan sees this case as an example of what some call “ordinary injustice” in the criminal justice system.  Ordinary injustice is the denials of due process and effective assistance of counsel which occur when systemic pressures are allowed to become more important than individual justice in each case.  

Contributed by Karen Maurer