United States v. Shepherd, 880 F.3d 734 (5th Cir. 2018)
Nature of Case: Appellant had been convicted in both Arizona and Nevada of sex-related offenses, and subsequently moved to Texas. Appellant did not register as a sex offender, and was federally indicted for violating SORN. Appellant pled guilty and received a prison term. Subsequent to his release, Appellant sought to register as a sex offender with Texas authorities, who rejected his registration on the grounds that neither of his offenses qualified for registration under Texas law. Appellant then sought to vacate his failure to register conviction on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel or, alternatively, actual innocence. District court denied Appellant’s habeas petition, but granted certificate of appealability.
Holding: 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. Had Appellant’s attorney conducted a sufficient investigation or researched the law, they would have likely realized that Appellant’s prior convictions were not registerable and thus Appellant was prejudiced. Appellant’s guilty plea was therefore not voluntary.