SCOTUS to hear oral argument on sex offender case

Next week, a “sex offender” case will come for oral arguments before the Supreme Court.  The case is US. v Haymond and deals with the standard of proof required before imposing a sanction. If you recall a few weeks ago, we told you that in Florida, registration violations are strict liability (you don’t have to ‘knowingly or willfully’ commit them in order to be punished for violating them), while probation violations require knowing violation. This case takes it one step further.

The Adam Walsh Act mandates a person required to register that has his supervision revoked for a crime that carries a prison term of longer than a year, must return to prison for a minimum mandatory term of at least 5 years and possibly life. The issue is; the standard of proof for revocation of probation is “preponderance of the evidence” while the standard of proof for a criminal conviction is “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

In Haymond, the Defendant was on sex offender probation when he was accused of committing another crime. The court concluded by a “preponderance of the evidence” that he violated the terms of his supervised release, but also said that in a criminal trial, with a jury the government would have been required to make its findings “beyond a reasonable doubt” and the United States would have lost.

Haymond went back to prison for 5 years, followed by 5 years of probation and appealed. The 10th Circuit found in his favor and found the provision unconstitutional the government petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case and they will next week.

Even if we are not on probation/supervised release, because the stakes are so high and scrutiny so tight for anyone on the registry, this is an important case to watch.

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