OH Supr Ct: Sexual Offender May Be Convicted Where Conduct Violates Both Adam Walsh Act and Megan’s Law.

The Ohio Supreme Court considered the legitimacy of convictions of sex offenders, originally classified under Megan’s Law, who were indicted for violating the address-notification requirements of the Adam Walsh Act .  The court held that a sexual offender may be convicted where the conduct at issue—a failure to provide notice of a change of residence address—was a violation of the law under both the Adam Walsh Act and Megan’s Law.

The court also held that an offender who files an address-verification form with a sheriff under the mistaken belief that the form is required may be convicted of tampering with records if the form contains false information that was submitted with a purpose to defraud.  In other words, regardless of whether a person has a duty to file an address verification form, filing a form containing false information with the intent to defraud can be a violation of Ohio law.

The case is State v. Brunning, Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-5752.

The Defendant was a registered sex offender who has been convicted of failing to provide notice of a change of address and tampering with records.  After the passage of Megan’s Law, he was classified as a sexually oriented offender,  requiring advance notice of any address change and annual address verification  for ten years following his release.

In 2008, the Adam Walsh Act repealed Megan’s Law.  The Defendant was reclassified as a Tier III sex offender by the Ohio Attorney General.

In 2010, he was charged with failure to verify his address every 90 Days, failure to provide a notice of change of residence address, and providing false information on his periodic address-verification form.

The Supreme Court considered whether the defendant’s violation of the requirement under both Megan’s Law and the AWA that he notify the sheriff of a change of residence address was valid after a prior decision holding that the reclassification provisions in the Adam Walsh Act were unconstitutional.  That decision reinstated the classifications and community-notification and registration orders imposed previously by judges upon sex offenders originally classified under Megan’s Law.

The court noted that the requirements for giving  notice of a change of residence address are the same under both versions of the law.  The court said, “Once reinstated, those orders [under Megan’s Law] operated prospectively from the time they were first instituted.  They related back to the time they were first imposed and continued in effect as if they had never been changed. . . The General Assembly certainly did not intend for sex offenders to be relieved of obligations to notify authorities of a change of address when it repealed Megan’s Law and enacted the Adam Walsh Act.”

The conviction was upheld because the defendant “remained accountable for the address-change-notification requirement in Megan’s Law.”

The court also upheld the conviction for tampering with records.  The statute provides that no person shall “Falsify, destroy, remove,  conceal, alter, deface, or mutilate any writing, computer software, data, or record . . .”  The statute was violated because he “voluntarily misled the person to whom he submitted the form.

 

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