United States v. Collins, No. 14-4019 (4th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Defendant appealed his conviction of knowingly failing to register as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. 16913(a). Defendant argued that the government failed to prove an essential element of a SORNA violation - that he knew he had an obligation to register - based on comments made by a state court judge in a separate proceeding, which defendant argued suggested that his obligation to register had expired. The court agreed with the district court's determination that the state judge appeared to be giving advice rather than a binding legal opinion, and there is substantial evidence in the record to support the district court's conclusion that defendant knowingly avoided an obligation to register. Further, the court concluded that defendant's 30-month sentence was reasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed the conviction and sentence. The court vacated the supervised release portion of the sentence, however, because the U.S. Sentencing Commission recently issued a clarifying amendment that a failure to register under SORNA is not a sex offense for the purposes of the Guidelines. The court vacated the supervised release portion of defendant's sentence, remanding for further proceedings.