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State v. Reynolds

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

May 7, 2015

STATE OF MAINE
v.
RONNIE L. REYNOLDS

Argued February 10, 2015.

Judgment vacated. Remanded for further proceedings.

On the briefs:

James T. Lawley, Esq., Lipman & Katz, P.A., Augusta, for appellant Ronnie L. Reynolds.

Carletta Bassano, District Attorney, and Paul Cavanaugh II, First Asst. Dist. Atty., Prosecutorial District VII, Ellsworth, for appellee State of Maine.

At oral argument:

James T. Lawley, Esq., for appellant Ronnie L. Reynolds.

Paul Cavanaugh II, First Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee State of Maine.

Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ. Majority: SAUFLEY, C.J., and MEAD, GORMAN, and HJELM, JJ. Concurrence/Dissent: ALEXANDER and JABAR, JJ.

OPINION

Page 615

SAUFLEY, C.J.

[¶1] Ronnie L. Reynolds appeals from a judgment of conviction entered by the Superior Court (Washington County, R. Murray, J. ) after a jury found Reynolds guilty of his second offense of failing to comply with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 1999 (Class C), 34-A M.R.S. § 11227(2) (2014). Reynolds is, by law, a lifetime registrant; however, he asserts that he was led to believe that a 2004 amendment to SORNA changed his classification from a lifetime registrant to a ten-year registrant. He contends that the court erred in excluding relevant evidence of a letter from the Department of Public Safety, State Bureau of Identification that caused him to believe that he was no longer required to register. See 34-A M.R.S. § 11227(6) (2014). We agree that the court erred in excluding the letter. We vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶2] Because multiple changes in Maine's sex offender registration laws affect individual offenders differently depending on the crimes for which they were convicted and the date of sentencing, we briefly review the history as it affects Reynolds. The original Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) was enacted in 1991 and only applied to persons convicted of gross sexual assault of a victim who was under sixteen years old at the time of the crime. See P.L. 1991, ch. 809, § 1 (effective June 30, 1992) (codified at 34-A M.R.S.A. § § 11001-11004 (Supp. 1992)).

[¶3] On June 28, 1993, approximately one year after SORA first took effect, Reynolds was convicted of three counts of unlawful sexual contact (Class C), 17-A M.R.S.A. § 255(1)(C) (Supp. 1992), upon the entry of a nolo contendere plea. He was sentenced to five years' imprisonment, with all but two years suspended, and four years of probation to commence after the unsuspended term of imprisonment. At the time, the crimes for which Reynolds was convicted did not fall within the parameters of SORA, and thus he was not required to register as a sex offender.

[¶4] In 1995, the Legislature enacted the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 1995 (SORNA of 1995). See P.L. 1995, ch. 680, § 13 (effective July 4, 1996) (codified at 34-A M.R.S.A. § § 11101-11144 (Supp. 1996)). SORNA of 1995 slightly broadened the definition of " sex offender," but the new definition still did not include persons convicted of unlawful sexual contact. See 34-A M.R.S.A. § 11103(5) (Supp. 1996). Moreover, SORNA of 1995 only applied to persons sentenced or placed in institutional confinement on or after September 1, 1996. See 34-A M.R.S.A. § 11102 (Supp. 1996). Again, ...


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