Tuesday, March 13, 2012

You Can't Tell Them Your Address If You Don't Have One

The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed a decision of the Court of Appeals that reversed a conviction in a sex offender registration case.

Wisconsin requires a released offender to provide an address to authorities 10 days prior to release from prison. The defendant could not find housing within the time. 

From the majority opinion:

We begin by clarifying what is not at issue in this case. It is undisputed that Dinkins was required to register, and continues to be required to register, as a sex offender. It is undisputed that, as part of his registration, Dinkins is required to provide his address. This case is not about whether homeless registrants are "exempt" from registration requirements. They are not.

Rather, this case presents the narrow question of whether, under the circumstances where Dinkins attempted to comply with the registration requirements but was unable to find housing, he can be convicted of a felony for failing to notify the DOC of "[t]he address at which" he would "be residing" upon his release from prison. To resolve this question, we must interpret the sex offender registry statute. Statutory interpretation is a question of law, which we review independently of the determinations rendered by the circuit court and the court of appeals...

It is undisputed that Dinkins did not have a home of his own. The evidence in the record suggests that Dinkins made efforts to secure housing with relatives, but these efforts were unavailing. A DOC agent testified that, other than facilitating contact between Dinkins and his relatives, the DOC did not offer him additional assistance. The circuit court's finding that Dinkins was unable to provide the required information to the DOC because it did not exist, despite his attempt to provide the information, is not clearly erroneous.

There are concurring and dissenting opinions. (Mike Frisch)

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