Prior Failure to Register as Sex Offender Does Not Violate Adam Walsh Act
On December 5, 2007, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted a motion for judgment of acquittal in a criminal prosecution for failure to register as a sex offender.
Terry Lee Rich, a convicted sex offender, moved from Iowa to Kansas City, Missouri in March of 2006, but did not register as a sex offender. Four months later Congress passed the Adam Walsh Act (Walsh Act), which makes it a felony for a convicted sex offender who “travels” in interstate commerce (e.g., across state lines) not to register. See: 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a). Federal authorities sought to prosecute Rich under the Walsh Act based on his failure to register as a sex offender following his move from Iowa to Missouri – which had occurred before the Walsh Act was enacted.
In considering Rich’s mid-trial motion for judgment of acquittal, the court held that the Walsh Act did not apply to travel by sex offenders in interstate commerce before the law was enacted. The district court based its decision not on Ex Post Facto concerns, but rather on the statutory construction of “travels.”
According to the court, the use of the present tense was decisive in determining whether “travels” applied to conduct before the Walsh Act took effect. The favorable rulings cited by the government, the district court explained, simply failed “to mention the statutory use of the present tense in punishing a non-registrant who ‘travels’.” The court further noted that its determination that the statute applied only to interstate travel after the date of the Walsh Act’s enactment had been “accepted by a number of district and magistrate judges.”
Prosecutors attempted to rely on the legislative history of the Walsh Act to support their expansive reading of how “travels” should be applied to Rich. The court, however, refused to rely on legislative history, finding “no ambiguity” in the statute.
Accordingly, Rich’s motion for judgment of acquittal at the end of the prosecution’s case was granted, and he was ordered released. The government did not appeal the decision. See: United States v. Terry Lee Rich, U.S.D.C. (WD Mo.), 2007 WL 4292394.
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login
Related legal case
United States v. Terry Lee Rich
|Cite||U.S.D.C. (WD Mo.), 2007 WL 4292394|