United States v. Navarro, No. 19-50662 (5th Cir. 2022)
Nature of Case: In 1998, Defendant-Appellant pleaded guilty to a sex offense in Colorado. In 2013, Defendant moved to Texas. In 2019, law enforcement discovered that he was not on the sex offense registry in Texas and arrested him. Defendant pleaded guilty of failing to register as required by the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”), a crime under 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a). He completed his term of imprisonment but violated the terms of his supervised release twice and is serving an 11-month revocation sentence.
Defendant appeals his sentence claiming that his guilty plea for failing to register was insufficient as a matter of law because in 2019 he did not have an obligation to register on the sex offense registry.
Holding: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held, in a matter of first impression, that a conviction for a failure to register under federal SORNA is based on violation of federal SORNA’s registration requirements, which are independent of state law. Even so, the Fifth Circuit determined that Defendant had no duty to register under state or federal registration laws in 2019. For that reason, the Court vacated defendant’s judgment of conviction, concluding that the factual basis supporting Defendant’s guilty plea was insufficient as a “matter of law.”