The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals today released an opinion in a case involving various challenges to SORNA, including under the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses. The constitutional issues were previously decided by the Eleventh Circuit in United States v. Ambert, 561 F.3d 1202 (11th Cir. 2009), but were raised apparently for preservation purposes. In addition to upholding SORNA, the Court found that sex offenders are not exempt from its registration requirements, even when the jurisdiction in which he is required to register has not yet implemented SORNA. You may read the full opinion here.
Interestingly, the Court did discuss the defendant's claim that he had no duty to register under SORNA because he had no notice of the duty to register (relying on Lambert v. California, 355 U.S. 225 (1957)). The Court distinguished Lamberton the ground that the defendant here had "actual knowledge that he had a duty to register in Alabama." The defendant was admittedly given notice of his duty to register, but the notice was unclear as to whether he must register under state law or SORNA. The Court however noted that there were "sufficient circumstances to prompt [the defendant] to have inquired upon his duty to register." Thus, the Court concluded that “notice of a duty to register under state law is sufficient to satisfy the Due Process Clause.”
The ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday marks the first time an appeals court in the circuit has upheld the Adam Walsh Act, a 2006 law that aims to create a national sex offender database and creates stiff penalties for those who fail to register.
It stems from the case of William Eric Brown, who was appealing his 2008 conviction for failing to reregister as a sex offender after moving from North Carolina to Alabama. Brown had argued the new requirements were "impossible" to comply with because he never received notification about them.
The three-judge panel's ruling, however, concluded there was "no due process violation."