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The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued two opinions in sex offender cases last week that should pique the interest of defense attorneys. Both cases, U.S. v. Randell Lonjose and U.S. v. Franklin Carel, Jr., involved adults who pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a minor on Indian lands.
In the first case, U.S. v. Randell Lonjose, the Tenth Circuit reversed a condition of appellant Randell Lonjose’s supervised release.
Lonjose pleaded guilty in 2007 to one count of sexual abuse of a minor in Indian country. He was sentenced to 51 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
One week before Lonjose's release in December 2010, a probation officer filed an ex parte petition seeking to modify the conditions of Lonjose's supervised release to include that Lonjose could not have contact with children under the age of 18 without prior written permission of his probation officer. Despite Lonjose's objection that the prohibition would unreasonably infringe on his right to familial association, including his right to see his six-year-old son, the district court modified Lonjose's supervised release to include the prohibition against contact with minors.
Acknowledging the fundamental right to familial association, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the modification because there were not compelling circumstances to justify a restriction on Lonjose's contact with minor male family members.
In the second case, U.S. v. Franklin Carel, Jr., the Tenth Circuit ruled that Congress can require federal sex offenders to register in a state-run database. Appellant Franklin Carel, Jr., who also pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a minor in Indian country, appealed his conviction for knowingly failing to update his sex offender registration as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). Carel argued that SORNA's sex offender registration provision is unconstitutional.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that the requirement was a "constitutional exercise of Congress's authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause."
Here's what you need to know for your practice about the Tenth Circuit's final rulings in sex offender cases in 2011: supervised release restrictions on familial rights must be limited, and sex offender registration is constitutional.