throbber
(Slip Opinion)
`
`
`
` OCTOBER TERM, 2015
`
`
`Syllabus
`
`1
`
` NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
`
`
`
` being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
`
`
`
` The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
`
` prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
`
` See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
`
`
`SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
`
`
`
` Syllabus
`
`
`
`NICHOLS v. UNITED STATES
`CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
`
`THE TENTH CIRCUIT
` No. 15–5238. Argued March 1, 2016—Decided April 4, 2016
`
` The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) makes it
`
`a federal crime for certain sex offenders to “knowingly fai[l] to regis-
`
` ter or update a registration,” 18 U. S. C. §2250(a)(3), and requires
`that offenders who move to a different State “shall, not later than 3
`business days after each change of name, residence, employment, or
`student status,” inform in person “at least 1 jurisdiction involved
`pursuant to [42 U. S. C. §16913(a)] . . . of all changes” to required in-
`
`
`
`formation, §16913(c). A §16913(a) jurisdiction is “each jurisdiction
`
`where the offender resides, . . . is an employee, and . . . is a student.”
`
`Petitioner Nichols, a registered sex offender who moved from Kan-
`sas to the Philippines without updating his registration, was arrest-
`
`ed, escorted to the United States, and charged with violating SORNA.
`After conditionally pleading guilty, Nichols argued on appeal that
`SORNA did not require him to update his registration in Kansas.
`The Tenth Circuit affirmed his conviction, holding that though Nich-
`ols left Kansas, the State remained a “jurisdiction involved” for
`
`SORNA purposes.
`Held: SORNA did not require Nichols to update his registration in
`Kansas once he departed the State. Pp. 4–8.
`
`
`(a) SORNA’s plain text dictates this holding. Critical here is
`§16913(a)’s use of the present tense. Nichols once resided in Kansas,
`but after moving, he “resides” in the Philippines. It follows that once
`Nichols moved, he was no longer required to appear in Kansas be-
`cause it was no longer a “jurisdiction involved.” Nor was he required
`to appear in the Philippines, which is not a SORNA “jurisdiction.”
`§16911(10). Section 16913(c)’s requirements point to the same con-
`clusion: Nichols could not have appeared in person in Kansas “after”
`leaving the State. SORNA’s drafters could have required sex offend-
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`
`
`2
`
`
`
`NICHOLS v. UNITED STATES
`
`
`Syllabus
`ers to deregister in their departure jurisdiction before leaving the
`
`country had that been their intent. Pp. 4–6.
`
`
`(b) The Government resists this straightforward reading. It argues
`that a jurisdiction where an offender registers remains “involved”
`even after the offender leaves, but that would require adding the ex-
`tra clause “where the offender appears on a registry” to §16913(a).
`Also unconvincing is the claim that §16914(a)(3)’s requiring the of-
`fender to provide each address where he “will reside” shows that
`
`SORNA contemplates the possibility of an offender’s updating his
`
`registration before he actually moves. That provision merely lists the
`
`pieces of information to be updated; it says nothing about an obliga-
`
`tion to update in the first place. Finally, the Government’s argument
`that Nichols actually experienced two “changes” of residence—first,
`
`
`when he turned in his apartment keys in Kansas, and second, when
`he checked into his Manila hotel—is inconsistent with ordinary Eng-
`lish usage. Pp. 6–7.
`
`(c) Although “the most formidable argument concerning the stat-
`ute’s purposes [cannot] overcome the clarity [found] in the statute’s
`
`text,” Kloeckner v. Solis, 568 U. S. ___, ___, n. 4, the Court is mindful
`of those purposes and notes that its interpretation is not likely to
`create deficiencies in SORNA’s scheme. Recent legislation by Con-
`
`gress, as well as existing state-law registration requirements, offers
`
`reassurance that sex offenders will not be able to escape punishment
`for leaving the United States without notifying their departure juris-
`
`dictions. Pp. 7–8.
`775 F. 3d 1225, reversed.
`ALITO, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
`
`
`
`
`

`
`
`
`
`
` Cite as: 578 U. S. ____ (2016)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`
`1
`
`
` NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the
`
`
`
` preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to
`
` notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Wash-
`
` ington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order
`
`
` that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
`
`
`
`
`SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
`
`_________________
`
` No. 15–5238
`_________________
` LESTER RAY NICHOLS, PETITIONER v.
`
`
` UNITED STATES
`
`ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
`
`
`APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT
`
`
`[April 4, 2016]
`
` JUSTICE ALITO delivered the opinion of the Court.
`
`Lester Ray Nichols, a registered sex offender living in
`the Kansas City area, moved to the Philippines without
`notifying Kansas authorities of his change in residence.
`For that omission Nichols was convicted of failing to up-
`date his sex-offender registration, in violation of 18
`U. S. C. §2250(a). We must decide whether federal law
`
`required Nichols to update his registration in Kansas to
`
`reflect his departure from the State.
`I
`
`A
`
`
`
`Following the high-profile and horrific rape and murder
`of 7-year-old Megan Kanka by her neighbor, States in the
`early 1990’s began enacting registry and community-
`notification laws to monitor the whereabouts of individu-
`als previously convicted of sex crimes. See Smith v. Doe,
`538 U. S. 84, 89 (2003); Filler, Making the Case for Me-
`
`
`gan’s Law, 76 Ind. L. J. 315, 315–317 (2001). Congress
`followed suit in 1994 with the Jacob Wetterling Crimes
`Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registra-
`
`tion Act, 108 Stat. 2038, 42 U. S. C. §14071 et seq. (1994
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`
`
` NICHOLS v. UNITED STATES
`
`Opinion of the Court
`ed.). Named after an 11-year-old who was kidnapped at
`gunpoint in 1989 (and who remains missing today), the
`Wetterling Act conditioned federal funds on States’ enact-
`ing sex-offender registry laws meeting certain minimum
`standards. Smith, 538 U. S., at 89–90. “By 1996, every
`State, the District of Columbia, and the Federal Govern-
`ment had enacted some variation of ” a sex-offender regis-
`try. Id., at 90.
`
`In 2006, Congress replaced the Wetterling Act with the
`Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA),
`
`
`120 Stat. 590, 42 U. S. C. §16901 et seq. Two changes are
`pertinent here. First, Congress made it a federal crime for
`a sex offender who meets certain requirements to “know-
`
`ingly fai[l] to register or update a registration as required
`
`by [SORNA].” 18 U. S. C. §2250(a)(3); see Carr v. United
`
`States, 560 U. S. 438, 441–442 (2010). Second, Congress
`amended the provisions governing the registration re-
`quirements when an offender moves to a different State.
`The original Wetterling Act had directed States to require
`a sex offender to “register the new address with a desig-
`nated law enforcement agency in another State to which
`the person moves not later than 10 days after such person
`establishes residence in the new State, if the new State
`has a registration requirement.” 42 U. S. C. §14071(b)(5)
`(1994 ed.) (emphasis added). Congress later amended this
`provision to direct States to require a sex offender to
`“report the change of address to the responsible agency in
`the State the person is leaving, and [to] comply with any
`
`registration requirement in the new State of residence.”
`42 U. S. C. §14071(b)(5) (2000 ed.) (emphasis added).
`
`SORNA repealed this provision of the Wetterling Act.
`120 Stat. 600. In its place, federal law now provides:
`“A sex offender shall, not later than 3 business days
`after each change of name, residence, employment, or
`student status, appear in person in at least 1 jurisdic-
`
`2
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
` Cite as: 578 U. S. ____ (2016)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`tion involved pursuant to subsection (a) and inform
`that jurisdiction of all changes in the information re-
`
`quired for that offender in the sex offender registry.”
`42 U. S. C. §16913(c) (emphasis added).
`
`Subsection (a), in turn, provides: “A sex offender shall
`register, and keep the registration current, in each juris-
`diction where the offender resides, where the offender is
`an employee, and where the offender is a student.”
`§16913(a). A sex offender is required to notify only one
`“jurisdiction involved”; that jurisdiction must then notify a
`
`list of interested parties, including the other jurisdictions.
`
`§§16921(b)(1)–(7). The question presented in this case is
`whether the State a sex offender leaves—that is, the State
`where he formerly resided—qualifies as an “involved”
`jurisdiction under §16913.
`
`
`
`B
`
`In 2003, Nichols was convicted of traveling with intent
`to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, in viola-
`tion of 18 U. S. C. §2423(b). Although his offense predated
`SORNA’s enactment, Nichols was nevertheless required
`upon his eventual release in December 2011 to register as
`a sex offender in Kansas, where he chose to settle. 28 CFR
`72.3 (2015). Nichols complied with SORNA’s registration
`requirements—until November 9, 2012, when he abruptly
`disconnected all of his telephone lines, deposited his
`apartment keys in his landlord’s drop-box, and boarded a
`flight to Manila. When Nichols was a no-show at manda-
`tory sex-offender treatment, a warrant was issued revok-
`ing his supervised release. With the assistance of Ameri-
`can security forces, local police in Manila arrested Nichols
`in December 2012, and federal marshals then escorted
`
`him back to the United States, where he was charged with
`one count of “knowingly fail[ing] to register or update a
`registration as required by
`[SORNA],” 18 U. S. C.
`§2250(a)(3). After unsuccessfully moving to dismiss the
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`3
`
`

`
`4
`
`
`
`
`
`
` NICHOLS v. UNITED STATES
`
`Opinion of the Court
`indictment on the ground that SORNA did not require him
`
`to update his registration in Kansas, Nichols conditionally
`pleaded guilty, reserving his right to appeal the denial of
`
`his motion.
`
`The Tenth Circuit affirmed. 775 F. 3d 1225 (2014).
`Following its own precedent in United States v. Murphy,
`664 F. 3d 798 (2011), the panel held that when a sex of-
`fender “‘leaves a residence in a state, and then leaves the
`state entirely, that state remains a jurisdiction involved’”
`under §16913. 775 F. 3d, at 1229. Over four dissenting
`
`votes, the court denied Nichols’s petition for rehearing en
`
`banc. 784 F. 3d 666 (2015). In adhering to Murphy, the
`Tenth Circuit reentrenched a split created by the Eighth
`Circuit’s decision in United States v. Lunsford, 725 F. 3d
`859 (2013). Remarkably, Lunsford also involved a sex
`offender who moved from the Kansas City area—on the
`Missouri side—to the Philippines. Contra the Tenth
`Circuit’s decision below, Lunsford held that that defend-
`
`ant had no obligation to update his registration in Mis-
`souri because a sex offender is required “to ‘keep the regis-
`tration current’ in the jurisdiction where he ‘resides,’ not a
`jurisdiction where he ‘resided.’” Id., at 861 (citation omit-
`
`ted). We granted certiorari to resolve the split. 577 U. S.
`
`___ (2015).
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`II
`
`
`As noted, Nichols was required to “appear in person in
`at least 1 jurisdiction involved pursuant to subsection (a)
`
`and inform that jurisdiction of ” his change of residence.
`42 U. S. C. §16913(c). Subsection (a) mentions three
`
`possible jurisdictions: “where the offender resides, where
`the offender is an employee, and where the offender is a
`student.” §16913(a). The Philippines is not a “jurisdic-
`
`tion” under SORNA; no
`foreign country
`is.
`See
`§16911(10). Putting these provisions together, SORNA
`therefore requires a sex offender who changes his resi-
`
`
`
`

`
`
`
` Cite as: 578 U. S. ____ (2016)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`dence to appear, within three business days of the change,
`in person in at least one jurisdiction (but not a foreign
`country) where he resides, works, or studies, and to inform
`that jurisdiction of the address change. Critically,
`§16913(a) uses only the present tense: “resides,” “is an
`employee,” “is a student.” A person who moves from Leav-
`enworth to Manila no longer “resides” (present tense) in
`Kansas; although he once resided in Kansas, after his
`move he “resides” in the Philippines. It follows that once
`Nichols moved to Manila, he was no longer required to
`appear in person in Kansas to update his registration, for
`Kansas was no longer a “jurisdiction involved pursuant to
`subsection (a)” of §16913.
`The requirement in §16913(c) to appear in person and
`
`register “not later than 3 business days after each change
`of . . . residence” points to the same conclusion. Nichols
`could not have appeared in person in Kansas “after” leav-
`ing the State. To be sure, one may argue that the day
`
`before his departure was “not later than 3 business days
`after” his departure, but no one in ordinary speech uses
`
`language in such a strained and hypertechnical way.
`
`If the drafters of SORNA had thought about the problem
`of sex offenders who leave the country and had sought to
`require them to (de)register in the departure jurisdiction,
`they could easily have said so; indeed, that is exactly what
`the amended Wetterling Act had required. 42 U. S. C.
`§14071(b)(5) (2000 ed.) (“report the change of address to
`the responsible agency in the State the person is leaving”).
`
`
`It is also what Kansas state law requires: Nichols had a
`duty to notify, among other entities, “the registering law
`enforcement agency or agencies where last registered.”
`Kan. Stat. Ann. §22–4905(g) (2014 Cum. Supp.) (emphasis
`added). Congress could have chosen to retain the lan-
`guage in the amended Wetterling Act, or to adopt locution
`similar to that of the Kansas statute (and echoed in the
`statutes of many other States, cf. Brief for Petitioner 6,
`
`
`
`
`
`5
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`
`
` NICHOLS v. UNITED STATES
`
`Opinion of the Court
`n. 1). It did neither. SORNA’s plain text—in particular,
`§16913(a)’s consistent use of the present tense—therefore
`did not require Nichols to update his registration in Kan-
`sas once he no longer resided there.
`III
`
`The Government resists this straightforward reading of
`
`the statutory text, arguing instead that once an offender
`registers in a jurisdiction, “that jurisdiction necessarily
`remains ‘involved pursuant to subsection (a),’ because the
`offender continues to appear on its registry as a current
`resident.” Brief for United States 24. But §16913(a) lists
`only three possibilities for an “involved” jurisdiction:
`“where the offender resides, where the offender is an
`employee, and where the offender is a student.” Notably
`absent is “where the offender appears on a registry.” We
`decline the Government’s invitation to add an extra clause
`to the text of §16913(a). As we long ago remarked in
`another context, “[w]hat the government asks is not a
`construction of a statute, but, in effect, an enlargement of
`it by the court, so that what was omitted, presumably by
`inadvertence, may be included within its scope. To supply
`omissions transcends the judicial function.” Iselin v.
`
` United States, 270 U. S. 245, 251 (1926). Just so here.
`Relatedly, the Government points out that among the
`
`pieces of information a sex offender must provide as part
`of his registration is “[t]he address of each residence at
`which the sex offender resides or will reside.” §16914(a)(3)
`(emphasis added). The use of the future tense, says the
`Government, shows that SORNA contemplates the possi-
`bility of an offender’s updating his registration before
`actually moving. But §16914(a) merely lists the pieces of
`information that a sex offender must provide if and when
`he updates his registration; it says nothing about whether
`the offender has an obligation to update his registration in
`the first place.
`
`6
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`7
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
` Cite as: 578 U. S. ____ (2016)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`Finally, the Government argues that Nichols actually
`
`experienced not one but two “changes” of residence—the
`first when he “abandoned” his apartment in Leavenworth
`by turning in his keys, and the second when he checked
`into his hotel in Manila. On the Government’s view, a sex
`offender’s “residence information will change when he
`leaves the place where he has been residing, and it will
`
`change again when he arrives at his new residence. He
`must report both of those changes in a timely fashion.”
`
`Brief for United States 21. We think this argument too
`clever by half; when someone moves from, say, Kansas
`City, Kansas, to Kansas City, Missouri, we ordinarily
`would not say he moved twice: once from Kansas City,
`Kansas, to a state of homelessness, and then again from
`homelessness to Kansas City, Missouri. Nor, were he to
`drive an RV between the cities, would we say that he
`changed his residence four times (from the house on the
`Kansas side of the Missouri River to a state of homeless-
`ness when he locks the door behind him; then to the RV
`when he climbs into the vehicle; then back to homeless-
`ness when he alights in the new house’s driveway; and
`then, finally, to the new house in Missouri). And what if
`he were to move from Kansas to California and spend
`several nights in hotels along the way? Such ponderings
`
`cannot be the basis for imposing criminal punishment.
`“We interpret criminal statutes, like other statutes, in a
`
`consistent with ordinary English usage.”
`manner
`
`Abramski v. United States, 573 U. S. ___, ___ (2014) (Scalia,
`J., dissenting) (slip op., at 4); Flores-Figueroa v. United
`
`States, 556 U. S. 646, 652 (2009). In ordinary English,
`Nichols changed his residence just once: from Kansas to
`
`the Philippines.
`
`We are mindful that SORNA’s purpose was to “make
`more uniform what had remained ‘a patchwork of federal
`and 50 individual state registration systems,’ with ‘loop-
`holes and deficiencies’ that had resulted in an estimated
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`
`
` NICHOLS v. UNITED STATES
`
`Opinion of the Court
`100,000 sex offenders becoming ‘missing’ or ‘lost.’” United
`States v. Kebodeaux, 570 U. S. ___, ___–___ (2013) (slip op.,
`at 11–12) (citation omitted). Yet “even the most formida-
`ble argument concerning the statute’s purposes could
`
`not overcome the clarity we find in the statute’s text.”
`
`Kloeckner v. Solis, 568 U. S. ___, ___, n. 4 (2012) (slip op.,
`at 14, n. 4).
`
`
`Our interpretation of the SORNA provisions at issue in
`this case in no way means that sex offenders will be able
`to escape punishment for leaving the United States with-
`out notifying the jurisdictions in which they lived while in
`this country. Congress has recently criminalized the
`“knowin[g] fail[ure] to provide information required by
`
`[SORNA] relating to intended travel in foreign commerce.”
`
`International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation
`and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification
`of Traveling Sex Offenders, Pub. L. 114–119, §6(b)(2), 130
`Stat. 23, to be codified at 18 U. S. C. §2250(b). Such in-
`formation includes “anticipated dates and places of depar-
`ture, arrival, or return[;] carrier and flight numbers for air
`travel[;] destination country and address or other contact
`information therein,” et cetera. §6(a)(1)(B), 130 Stat. 22,
`to be codified at 42 U. S. C. §16914(a)(7). Both parties
`agree that the new law captures Nichols’s conduct. Supp.
`Brief for United States 3; Reply Brief 10; Tr. of Oral Arg.
`18, 35. And, of course, Nichols’s failure to update his
`registration in Kansas violated state law. Kan. Stat. Ann.
`§22–4905(g). We are thus reassured that our holding
`today is not likely to create “loopholes and deficiencies” in
`
`SORNA’s nationwide sex-offender registration scheme.
`
`
`*
`*
`*
`
`The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Tenth
`Circuit is reversed.
`
`
`
`
`It is so ordered.
`
`
`
`8

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