Plea is Valid Even When Sex Offender Should Be Classified under Megan’s Law, Not Adam Walsh Act

The Ohio Court of Appeals for Miami County has held that a defendant may not be classified as a sexual offender under the Adam Walsh Act if his crime occurred before the effective date of the Act.  Instead, the defendant should have been classified under Megan’s Law.

The case is State v. Cruea, 2012-Ohio-5209.

The defendant had been indicted on multiple felony sex crime charges.  He pled no contest to one count of rape and two counts of Gross Sexual Imposition and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

One of the arguments raised on appeal by the defendant was that the trial court failed to properly advise him with respect to how his no contest plea would affect his sexual offender reporting requirements.  Specifically, the defendant argued that the trial court failed to advise him of his specific reporting responsibilities once he was designated as a sexual offender.

The trial court incorrectly designated the defendant as a Tier II sexual offender under the Adam Walsh Act.  This was incorrect because the rape occurred before the Adam Walsh Act took effect.  In a previous decision, the Ohio Supreme Court had ruled that constitution prohibits the application of the Adam Walsh Act to any sex offender who committed the underlying sex offense before the Act’s effective date.

Instead, the defendant in this case should have been classified under Megan’s Law, which was in effect at the time of the offense.  Under Megan’s  Law, a sex offender classification hearing must be held to determine if a defendant convicted of a sexually oriented offense has a community reporting responsibility.   If a defendant is classified as a sexual predator, he would have community reporting responsibilities.  If a defendant is classified as a habitual sexual offender, the trial court has the discretion to make the defendant subject to community reporting responsibilities.  Finally, under Megan’s law, if the defendant is classified as a sexually oriented offender, the defendant would not have any community reporting duties.

In this case, the trial court correctly informed the defendant during his plea hearing that “based upon your classification status, the Sheriff may have to – may be required to notify victims, neighbors, schools, churches and other institutions of your name, address and the offense.”  Accordingly, the plea hearing did not violate any of the Defendant’s rights and the guilty finding was affirmed.  The case was remanded for a new a sex offender classification hearing under Megan’s law.

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