Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Pre-SORNA Offenders Not Required to Register Until Attorney General’s Regulations Issued

On March 13, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit joined in a growing circuit split over the applicability of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) to offenders who failed to register prior to February 28, 2007, the date the Attorney General promulgated regulations implementing the act.

SORNA is Congress’ effort to keep tabs on sex offenders. Passed in 2006, the Act requires sex offenders who travel in interstate commerce to register with state authorities and to keep their registrations current. Failure to register can put you in federal prison for up to ten years.

William Hatcher was charged with violating SORNA’s registration requirements after he moved from one state to another and failed to register. He moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that SORNA’s registration requirements did not apply because his failure to register occurred before the Attorney General issued regulations specifying the applicability of the Act to persons convicted before SORNA’s enactment. The district court denied Hatcher’s motion. Hatcher entered a conditional plea and appealed.

The Fourth Circuit, joining the Eleventh Circuit, reversed. “SORNA’s registration requirements did not apply to pre-SORNA offenders until the Attorney General issued” regulations on February 28, 2007, the court wrote. Hatcher’s conviction was accordingly reversed. The Eighth and Tenth Circuits have both reached a contrary result, holding that SORNA applies to offenders convicted before SORNA, irrespective of the Attorney General’s regulations. See: United States v. Hatcher, 560 F.3d 222 (4th Cir. 2009).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

United States v. Hatcher