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Delaware Sex Offender Acquitted on School Loitering Conviction; Probation Violation Upheld

Delaware registered sex offender William Dahl appealed a 2006 conviction for loitering within 500 feet of a school; as a result of the conviction he had received a 20-year sentence. Because the shopping mall located dance academy that was the subject of his loitering conviction was not a "school" for purposes of Del. C. § 1112, his conviction was overturned.

New Castle Dance Academy (Academy) teacher Heather Pate noticed Dahl on numerous occasions observing her students at the mall. Pate's husband, Ryan, asked Dahl to leave because he was making "a lot of people uncomfortable." Dahl refused and continued to eat his lunch in the mall’s picnic area. Ryan later found Dahl on the sex offender registry and called police; he was arrested and charged with violating the loitering ordinance, and subsequently convicted at a bench trial.

On appeal, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware held that the state had failed to show that the primary purpose of the Academy was to educate or instruct children under the age of 16, as required by the school loitering statute. The Academy taught both children and adults. The case was therefore remanded with instructions to enter a judgment of acquittal for Dahl. See: Dahl v. State of Delaware, 926 A.2d 1077 (Del.Supr., 2007).

Ironically, even though he was acquitted on the loitering charge, Dahl was still subjected to a probation violation for the same incident. His motion for post-conviction relief challenging the violation was denied in March 2008. See: State of Delaware v. Dahl, Case No. 9909017710 (Del.Super., 2008); 2008 WL 1891707.

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