Iowa Supreme Court: New lodging starts clock on 5-day sex offender registry update, not five full da
February 2, 2018—The Iowa Supreme Court today affirmed a jury verdict of guilty in a failure to register as a sex offender trial out of Black Hawk County. Justice Zager, writing for the majority, held that the law governing the sex offender registry triggers a duty to update a new, temporary address within five days of the new lodging and does not afford to registrants five full days of absence, e.g., a "grace" period, before requiring a trip to the sheriff.
Iowa Code § 692.105 requires that “a sex offender, within five business days of a change, shall also appear in person to notify the sheriff of the county of principal residence, of any location in which the offender is staying when away from the principal residence of the offender for more than five days, by identifying the location and the period of time the offender is staying in such location.”
Defendant argued evidence was insufficient to convict him of a violation of Iowa Code § 692A.105 because the statute only required him to notify the sheriff of “being away from his or her principal residence for more than five days.” Defendant thus argued “change” was synonymous with “add” or “terminate.”
Police could not reach him at home and later found him at a Motel 6. Evidence adduced at trial could not establish, he argued, that he was away from his home for five days or more. The State argued that Defendant was required to notify the Sheriff within five business days of changing to temporary lodging.
By examining the purpose of the registry and other “within five days” references in the law intended to provide “relevant information” to law information about sex offenders, Justice Zager found the statute triggered a duty to notify the sheriff when temporary residency begins—and does not afford to offenders a 5-day “grace” to absent themselves from their registered address before registry. Thus, evidence was sufficient to convict Defendant of the violation.
Coleman also challenged prosecutorial misconduct in closing arguments. The State argued, “[t[he defense, they want to—blow a lot of smoke around the law, make it as fuzzy as possible” and “hide behind [a] cloud of assumption.” Colman at 14-15.
Justice Zager wrote that the case at bar did not present a “pattern of misconduct” amounting to a “full attack on the credibility and character of the defendant,” as had a prosecutor in the Graves case that was reversed for prosecutorial misconduct. Coleman at 16-17. In addition, Justice Zager wrote, the prosecutor’s comments were “aimed at the theory of the defense” and were not ad hominem attacks on the Defendant, as in Graves. Even so, Justice Zager wrote, Defendant failed to demonstrate prejudice. Id.
Justice Appel filed a special concurrence with the majority opinion that nevertheless dissented from Justice Zager’s interpretation of Iowa Code § 692A.105. Justice Appel wrote that the ambiguity in the statute about “within five days” should be construed against the State. On the issue of prosecutorial misconduct, Justice Appel took issue with the majority distinction between attacks on defendants and attacks on defense theories. Because no prejudice lies in the case at bar, a conclusion with which Justice Appel agreed, it was, he wrote, mere dicta rather than a holding of the court. Coleman, J. Appel concurring in part, dissenting in part, p. 42-43.
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