Friday, May 27, 2016

SORNA Jury Instruction Was Incorrect; Court Proposes Instruction for "Habitually Lives"

United States v. Alexander, 817 F.3d 1205 (10th Cir. 2016): Mr. Alexander’s SORNA conviction is reversed because of an erroneous and prejudicial jury instruction. Mr. Alexander, a sex offender subject to registration requirements, traveled from California to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he stayed with a friend for three weeks without registering. The issue was whether he changed his residence by doing so. He contended he merely visited his friend while on his way to Texas and did not “habitually live” there as required to find that it was a place he resided. Based on SORNA guidelines issued by the Attorney General, Mr. Alexander requested a jury instruction defining “habitually lives” as “any place where a sex offender intends to make his home, or in which he lives for at least 30 days.” The trial court refused, giving an instruction that omitted the 30-day requirement. Under the circumstances, that was error. The Court proposed language for a jury instruction.