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New York’s SORA Registration: New York Court of Appeals Compares SORA Rules Of New York And Virginia


New York’s SORA Registration: New York Court of Appeals Compares SORA Rules Of New York And Virginia

People v. Diaz

No. 134

State of New York Court of Appeals

Decided on December 11th, 2018

ISSUE:

Whether the defendant’s conviction for murder of his half-sister, an offense that requires registration under Virginia Law which combines a registry of sex offenders and those who commit crimes against minors, renders him a sex offender for purposes of New York State Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA).

HOLDING:

The Court held that the defendant’s murder of his half-sister does not render him a sex offender for the purpose of SORA because the Virginia law combines the registry of those who commit crimes against minors and sex offenders and the defendant, in this case, had not committed a sex crime.

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

Defendant Fredrick Diaz shot and killed his thirteen-year-old half-sister after she continuously badgered him about his drug dealings. He pled guilty to murder in the first degree under Virginia law. It was undisputed that this crime contained no sexual component. Before his conditional release from prison, the defendant was registered with the Virginia Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry because his crime was in violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-32. The dual purpose of the statute was to protect communities and families from repeat sex offenders and protect children from becoming victims of criminal offenders; clearly demonstrating a distinction between sex offenses and other violent, nonsexual crimes against a minor. Days after his release, he moved to New York.

 

Upon moving to New York, the Division of Criminal Justice Services notified the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders who determined that because Diaz was required to register for his felony offense as an offender under the Virginia registry program, as a resident of New York he was required to do so under SORA as well.

 

The Supreme Court of New York (the trial court) adopted the Board’s recommendation in its final assessment, without addressing Diaz’s argument that the Virginia law’s distinction between sex offender and those who commit crimes against minors means the long arm of SORA’s foreign jurisdiction provision does not apply to him.

COURT’S ANALYSIS:

The Court held that the defendant’s murder of his half-sister does not render him a sex offender for the purpose of SORA because the defendant was not required to register as a sex offender in Virginia under Correction Law § 168-a (2) (d) (ii). SORA’s use of the term ‘sex offender’ in its foreign jurisdiction provision contains two elements: (1) The underlying offense must be a felony; (2) The offender must be required to register as a sex offender in the other jurisdiction as a result of that conviction. It is implied that if a defendant is required to register for a felony committed in a foreign jurisdiction but is not required to do so as a sex offender, SORA does not apply.

 

When SORA was enacted, it was predominantly concerned with the dangers posed by potential and repeat sex offenders. The government’s main duty here lies with protecting the public from sex offenders and a lack of information about ones that live in their jurisdiction would hinder law enforcement’s efforts to identify, investigate, apprehend and prosecute them. Therefore, the statute’s use of “sex offender” emphasizes SORA’s purpose of protecting the community against people who have shown themselves capable of committing sex crimes and excluding offenders from foreign jurisdictions who have not committed a sex crime. The people of Virginia did not consider the defendant a sex offender; they consider him a perpetrator of a violent, nonsexual crime against a minor. Therefore, he is not required to register under SORA’s foreign jurisdiction provision.