Billy Joe Reynolds, the Petitioner and a pre-Act sex offender, registered as a sex offender in Missouri in 2005 and subsequently moved to Pennsylvania in 2007, but failed to either update his Missouri registration or register in Pennsylvania. As a result, he was indicted for violating the Act’s registration requirements during the period between September 16 and October 16, 2007. Reynolds moved to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that the Act was inapplicable to pre-Act offenders during the period in question, and that the Attorney General’s Interim Rule was invalid because “it violated the Constitution’s ‘nondelegation’ doctrine and the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice and comment requirements.” The district court rejected his arguments on the merits, and on appeal, the Third Circuit found that the Act was applicable to pre-Act offenders as enacted, and thus did not reach Reynolds’ arguments on the merits. Reynolds appealed to the Supreme Court, and the case was heard on October 3, 2011. The only question before the Court was whether the Act, as enacted, applied to pre-Act offenders.
The majority held that when read naturally, the fourth statement modifies the first statement, “specifically deal[ing] with a subset (pre-Act offenders) of a broad general class (all sex offenders) to which the [first statement] applies.” Furthermore, the Court held that because the fourth statement confers upon the Attorney General the authority to specify the applicability of the act rather than is non-applicability, it consequently follows the Act confers authority to apply the Act rather than to make exceptions. Finally, the Court held that this reading comports with what Congress may have thought were practical problems that would arise when the Act attempted to apply the new registration requirements to pre-Act offenders. Because the Court held that the Act as enacted did not apply to pre-Act offenders, it remanded the case in order to address Reynolds’ arguments regarding the Attorney General’s interim rule and whether it violated the Constitution’s ‘nondelegation’ doctrine and the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice and comment requirements. If, on remand, the district court finds the Attorney General’s Interim Rule invalid, Reynolds cannot be charged under the statute.
Anoush GarakaniBlogger, Criminal Law Brief
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