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Ohio Supreme Court Sides with Defendant in Sex Offender Registration Case

On May 8, 2012, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of Wesley Lloyd, who was convicted of a sex offense in Texas and then moved to Ohio in 2005. He was arrested and convicted in Ohio for failing to register as Tier III sex offender “within three days” of his move to that state and “at least 20 days before moving” to his new Ohio residence.

According to the Supreme Court, “This case highlights the reasons why a court cannot assume that a defendant is under a duty to register merely because law enforcement claims that he is. After all, the courts are still the independent venue for sorting out law enforcement’s allegations, on the basis of actual proof.”

The Supreme Court was critical not only of the Fifth District Court of Appeals, from which the appeal was taken, but also the Ohio legislature. “The legislature did not explain the analysis that courts must undertake in determining whether an out-of-state offense is ‘substantially equivalent’ to a listed Ohio offense,” the Court wrote.

Under R.C. 2950.04(E), defendants convicted of certain sex offenses are required to register with the appropriate county officials both before and after they change their residence. The Ohio Supreme Court analyzed the application of that statute by using the “federal modified-categorical approach” set forth in Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990). Under that approach, courts attempt to arrive at a generic interpretation of a crime from another jurisdiction before applying it to the new jurisdiction. The Court held that Lloyd’s aggravated sexual assault conviction in Texas was “substantially equivalent to rape” under Ohio law.

Hence, the Supreme Court found that Lloyd had been convicted of a sexual offense in Texas that would have required registration had it been committed in Ohio. However, “the [Ohio] General Assembly imposes a duty to register on a person who has been convicted ... in another jurisdiction only if, at the time he moves to Ohio, he had a duty to register in the other jurisdiction as a consequence of the conviction.” The state therefore had to prove that when Lloyd moved to Ohio he was under a duty to register as a sex offender in Texas.

Yet Ohio prosecutors had failed to do so. “In its case-in-chief, the state failed to produce any evidence whatsoever that at the time Lloyd moved to Ohio, he was under a duty to register in Texas as a result of the conviction in that state. The state failed to produce any evidence that Lloyd had registered as a sex offender in Texas or that he had been given notice by any Texas authority that he was under a duty to register in Texas. It failed to produce any judgment entry that reflected that Lloyd had been adjudicated a sex offender in Texas.”

Thus, although Lloyd was a convicted sex offender who was in fact required to register in Texas – and therefore register in Ohio when he moved to that state – prosecutors failed to prove the elements of the offense for his failure to properly register in Ohio. Consequently, the Supreme Court vacated Lloyd’s convictions. See: State v. Lloyd, 132 Ohio St.3d 135, 970 N.E.2d 870 (Ohio 2012), reconsideration denied.

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Related legal case

State v. Lloyd