Doe v. Keathley, No. WD 72121.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtBefore: ALOK AHUJA, P.J., and VICTOR C. HOWARD and CYNTHIA L. MARTIN, JJ.
Citation344 S.W.3d 759
PartiesJohn DOE, Respondent,v.James F. KEATHLEY, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. WD 72121.
Decision Date26 April 2011

344 S.W.3d 759

John DOE, Respondent,
v.
James F. KEATHLEY, Appellant.

No. WD 72121.

Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District.

April 26, 2011.Motion for Rehearing and/or Transfer to


Supreme Court Denied May 31, 2011.
Application for Transfer
Denied Aug. 30, 2011.

[344 S.W.3d 761]

Jeremiah Morgan, Jefferson City, MO, for appellant.Mark Charles Prugh, Waynesville, MO, for respondent.Before: ALOK AHUJA, P.J., and VICTOR C. HOWARD and CYNTHIA L. MARTIN, JJ.ALOK AHUJA, Judge.

Colonel James Keathley, Superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol, appeals from a declaratory judgment in favor of a Missouri resident styled John Doe.1 Doe pled guilty in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County in October 1992 to a charge of sexual abuse in the first degree. He was given probation and a suspended imposition of sentence. The Circuit Court of Cole County found that Doe was not required to register under the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 16901– 16929, because the disposition of his sex offense did not constitute a “conviction” under Missouri law. Because the meaning of “convicted” under SORNA is a matter of federal, not state, law, and because under federal law a “conviction” encompasses a guilty plea followed by probation and a suspended imposition of sentence, the judgment is reversed.

Factual Background

Doe entered an Alford2 plea to the charge of sexual abuse in the first degree in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County on October 13, 1992. Doe was ordered to serve five years' probation with counseling, and was given a suspended imposition of sentence (“SIS”).

Following his guilty plea, Doe allegedly completed his counseling in March 1995, and was released from probation in March 1996 (nineteen months early). Upon the passage of Missouri's Sex Offender Registration Act (“SORA”), §§ 589.400 to 589.425,3 in 1995, Doe registered as a sex offender. In 2006, however, the Missouri Supreme Court held that, under article I, § 13 of the Missouri Constitution, SORA could not constitutionally be applied to offenders convicted before the state statute's effective date. Doe v. Phillips, 194 S.W.3d 833, 852 (Mo. banc 2006). The Supreme Court has recognized, however, that the federal SORNA, enacted in 2006, independently mandates sex-offender registration for individuals convicted of sex offenses

[344 S.W.3d 762]

prior to SORNA's effective date, and that the federal statute is not subject to the Missouri Constitution's prohibition on retrospective laws. Doe v. Keathley, 290 S.W.3d 719, 720 (Mo. banc 2009). See also Droney v. Fitch, No. 4:10–CV–114 CAS, 2011 WL 890704, at *3–*4 (E.D.Mo. March 14, 2011).

Doe filed a petition seeking declaratory and mandamus relief in the Circuit Court of Cole County on November 22, 2006, seeking to be free of SORA's registration requirements. Although Keathley conceded that Doe did not need to register under SORA in light of the Doe v. Phillips decision, he nevertheless filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that Doe had an independent obligation to register under SORNA. The circuit court initially ruled for Keathley, concluding that, “[u]nder federal law, a suspended imposition of sentence is considered a conviction.” After further briefing, however, the trial court reversed course, finding that “[u]nder Missouri law, a suspended imposition of sentence is not a conviction.... [A] suspended imposition of sentence will not satisfy a federal statute that requires a conviction to trigger its application.” Keathley appeals.

Analysis

Keathley raises a single Point Relied On, arguing that Doe must register as a sex offender because his prior guilty plea with an SIS means that he was “convicted” of a covered sex offense within the meaning of SORNA. Keathley's arguments concerning the proper interpretation of SORNA present questions of law which we review de novo, without deference to the circuit court's judgment. See, e.g., Kivland v. Columbia Orthopaedic Grp., LLP, 331 S.W.3d 299, 311 (Mo. banc 2011); State v. Andrews, 329 S.W.3d 369, 371 (Mo. banc 2010).

Since 1994, federal law has required States, as a condition for the receipt of certain law enforcement funds, to maintain federally compliant systems for sex-offender registration and community notification. In an effort to make these state schemes more comprehensive, uniform, and effective, Congress in 2006 enacted the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA or Act) as part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, Pub.L. 109–248, Tit. I, 120 Stat. 590.

Carr v. United States, ––– U.S. ––––, 130 S.Ct. 2229, 2232, 176 L.Ed.2d 1152 (2010).

Among its many provisions, SORNA instructs States to maintain sex-offender registries that compile an array of information about sex offenders, § 16914; to make this information publicly available online, § 16918; to share the information with other jurisdictions and with the Attorney General for inclusion in a comprehensive national sex-offender registry, §§ 16919–16921; and to “provide a criminal penalty that includes a maximum term of imprisonment that is greater than 1 year for the failure of a sex offender to comply with the requirements of this subchapter,” § 16913(e). Sex offenders, in turn, are required to “register, and keep the registration current, in each jurisdiction where the offender resides, where the offender is an employee, and where the offender is a student,” § 16913(a), and to appear in person periodically to “allow the jurisdiction to take a current photograph, and verify the information in each registry in which that offender is required to be registered,” § 16916.

Id. at 2240–41.

The individuals subject to SORNA's registration requirements are identified in 42 U.S.C. § 16911(1), which provides that “[t]he term ‘sex offender’ means an individual

[344 S.W.3d 763]

who was convicted of a sex offense.” (Emphasis added.) The statute does not explicitly define “convicted,” or indicate which body of law controls the term's meaning.
I.

Keathley first argues that federal, not state, law controls the interpretation of the term “convicted” as it appears in SORNA. Doe argues, to the contrary, that the determination of whether a particular disposition of criminal charges constitutes a “conviction” is governed by the law of the state which rendered the disposition. The circuit court applied state law concerning the meaning of a “conviction” in ruling in Doe's favor.

The general rule is that, unless a contrary intention plainly appears, the meaning of terms used in a federal statute should be determined by federal law, and is not dependent on state-law definitions of the terms used in the federal statute.

While the meaning of a federal statute is necessarily a federal question in the sense that its construction remains subject to this Court's supervision, Congress sometimes intends that a statutory term be given content by the application of state law. We start, however, with the general assumption that “in the absence of a plain indication to the contrary, ... Congress when it enacts a statute is not making the application of the federal act dependent on state law.” One reason for this rule of construction is that federal statutes are generally intended to have uniform nationwide application. Accordingly, the cases in which we have found that Congress intended a state-law definition of a statutory term have often been those where uniformity clearly was not intended. A second reason for the presumption against the application of state law is the danger that “the federal program would be impaired if state law were to control.” For this reason, “we look to the purpose of the statute to ascertain what is intended.”

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30, 43–44, 109 S.Ct. 1597, 104 L.Ed.2d 29 (1989) (quoting Jerome v. United States, 318 U.S. 101, 104, 63 S.Ct. 483, 87 L.Ed. 640 (1943); other citations omitted).

The United States Supreme Court has applied this principle to the interpretation of another federal statute which, like SORNA, does not itself define the term “convicted.” Dickerson v. New Banner Institute, Inc., 460 U.S. 103, 103 S.Ct. 986, 74 L.Ed.2d 845 (1983), involved the application of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g) and (h), which prohibited an individual “who is under indictment for, or who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” from shipping, transporting, or receiving firearms or ammunition in interstate commerce. Id. at 105, 103 S.Ct. 986. In Dickerson, a principal (Kennison) of an entity seeking a federal firearms dealer license had previously pled guilty to a charge of carrying a concealed weapon in an Iowa state court. Id. at 107–08, 103 S.Ct. 986. Kennison's sentencing was deferred by the state court, and no judgment was entered against him; instead, he was placed on probation. Id. At the conclusion of his term of probation, the record of the proceeding was expunged under an Iowa statute providing that, “[u]pon discharge from probation, if judgment has been deferred ... the court's criminal record with reference to the deferred judgment shall be expunged.” Id. at 108 n. 4 (quoting statute).

Dickerson held that federal law, not state law, controlled the question whether Kennison had been “convicted” in the Iowa state-court proceeding. With respect to

[344 S.W.3d 764]

the issue of whether Kennison had initially been “convicted,” the Court merely observed that this issue “is necessarily ... a question of federal, not state, law, despite the fact that the predicate offense and its punishment are defined by the law of the State. This makes for desirable national uniformity unaffected by varying state laws, procedures, and definitions of ‘conviction.’ ” Id. at 111–12 (citations omitted).

With respect to the later expungement of Kennison's conviction, the Court likewise held that federal law controlled. In this connection, the Court cited numerous...

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12 practice notes
  • Roe v. Replogle, No. SC 92978.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • October 1, 2013
    ...federal law, rather than state law, controls the question of whether a guilty plea constitutes a conviction under SORNA. Doe v. Keathley, 344 S.W.3d 759, 765 (Mo.App.2011). Because Mr. Roe's guilty plea is considered a conviction under federal law, see id. at 765–66, he again was required t......
  • Aames v. United States, No. 16-00255-CV-W-FJG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Missouri
    • March 17, 2017
    ...Act ("SORNA"), as part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act., Pub.L. 109-248, Tit. I, 120 Stat. 590. Doe v. Keathley, 344 S.W.3d 759, 762 (Mo.App. 2011).SORNA requires sex offenders to "register, and keep the registration current, in each jurisdiction where the offender resides......
  • Horton v. State, No. SD 33329
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • April 13, 2015
    ...appellate review.’ ” (quoting State ex rel. Nixon v. American Tobacco Co., Inc., 34 S.W.3d 122, 129 (Mo. banc 2000) ); Doe v. Keathley, 344 S.W.3d 759, 770 (Mo.App.W.D.2011) (“Doe's petition only sought relief on the basis that he had not been ‘convicted’ of a sex offense within the meaning......
  • Wilkerson v. State, WD 79996
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • October 3, 2017
    ...prosecution ..., ‘stand at the center of 533 S.W.3d 761Congress' effort to account for missing sex offenders' in SORNA." Doe v. Keathley, 344 S.W.3d 759, 769 (Mo. App. W.D. 2011) (quoting Carr v. United States, 560 U.S. 438, 456, 130 S.Ct. 2229, 176 L.Ed.2d 1152 (2010) ); see also Isom, 429......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • Roe v. Replogle, No. SC 92978.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • October 1, 2013
    ...federal law, rather than state law, controls the question of whether a guilty plea constitutes a conviction under SORNA. Doe v. Keathley, 344 S.W.3d 759, 765 (Mo.App.2011). Because Mr. Roe's guilty plea is considered a conviction under federal law, see id. at 765–66, he again was required t......
  • Aames v. United States, No. 16-00255-CV-W-FJG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Missouri
    • March 17, 2017
    ...Act ("SORNA"), as part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act., Pub.L. 109-248, Tit. I, 120 Stat. 590. Doe v. Keathley, 344 S.W.3d 759, 762 (Mo.App. 2011).SORNA requires sex offenders to "register, and keep the registration current, in each jurisdiction where the offender resides......
  • Horton v. State, No. SD 33329
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • April 13, 2015
    ...appellate review.’ ” (quoting State ex rel. Nixon v. American Tobacco Co., Inc., 34 S.W.3d 122, 129 (Mo. banc 2000) ); Doe v. Keathley, 344 S.W.3d 759, 770 (Mo.App.W.D.2011) (“Doe's petition only sought relief on the basis that he had not been ‘convicted’ of a sex offense within the meaning......
  • Wilkerson v. State, WD 79996
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • October 3, 2017
    ...prosecution ..., ‘stand at the center of 533 S.W.3d 761Congress' effort to account for missing sex offenders' in SORNA." Doe v. Keathley, 344 S.W.3d 759, 769 (Mo. App. W.D. 2011) (quoting Carr v. United States, 560 U.S. 438, 456, 130 S.Ct. 2229, 176 L.Ed.2d 1152 (2010) ); see also Isom, 429......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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