Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Offender gets prison for late notification

Sex offender had 10 days to file address

Jason Rosenbaum//March 18, 2009

Offender gets prison for late notification

Sex offender had 10 days to file address

Jason Rosenbaum//March 18, 2009

The Missouri Supreme Court rejected a challenge from a sex offender who incurred a prison sentence when he did not register a change of address notice within 10 days.

The Supreme Court previously ruled that it was unconstitutional to require sex offenders convicted of crimes before Jan. 1, 1995, to register with local law enforcement authorities. Such a move, the court argued, was a retrospective function disallowed allowed under the Missouri Constitution.

A Hannibal resident named William Holden argued that he fell into that category, since the date of his offense was before the law went into effect but the guilty plea came into effect several months after the law became active.

Before he pleaded guilty to committing sodomy on a 5-year-old in March 1995, the state of Missouri enacted a law that, among other things, required individuals registered as sex offenders to notify local sheriff’s departments of moving to a new residence within 10 days.

Holden was released from prison in 2001. After his release, Holden registered as a sex offender with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and moved into a basement. In August 2007, Holden alerted the Marion County Sheriff’s Office that he had been living out of his car and that he needed to re-register as a sex offender by the end of the month. An official with the sheriff’s department told him of the 10-day requirement, and the next day Holden provided a written statement that he had moved residences more than a month before. He was subsequently arrested and eventually sentenced to four years in prison by a trial court.

In a unanimous ruling, the court found that the law did apply to Holden. Writing for the court, Judge William Ray Price Jr. wrote that previous court decisions found the time of the guilty plea – not the date of purported crime – triggered the registration requirements.

“In this case, Holden was charged with two counts of sodomy with a child under the age of fourteen years,” Price wrote. “When Holden pled guilty to this offense, the registration requirements had been in effect for several months. [The statute] as applied to Holden, is constitutional.”

Price also wrote that state did not err in not disclosing a number of Holden’s registration forms. The court also rejected arguments that the decision against Holden was prejudiced when his victim’s age was relayed in court.

“The victim’s age is relevant to prove that Holden was previously convicted of a sexual offense involving a child under the age of fourteen years. … To the extent that the age is inflammatory, it is the result of defendant’s own conduct and does not outweigh its prohibitive effect,” Price wrote.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Richard Teitelman wrote that Holden’s conviction and sentence “unintentionally may undermine future enforcement efforts.”

“Had Mr. Holden realized voluntary re-registration would land him in jail for four years, he would have been faced with a significant incentive to abscond,” Teitelman wrote. “If the purpose of the registration requirements is to permit authorities and the public to stay apprised of an offenders’ residence, then it may prove unwise to impose harsh punishments on those offenders, like Mr. Holden, who undertake good faith but technically erroneous efforts at compliance.” Judge Michael Wolff concurred in Teitelman’s opinion.

Irene Karns, the public defender representing Holden, could not be reached for comment. Travis Ford, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said the effect of the decision is that Holden will remain confined in a Licking, Mo., prison.

The case is State v. Holden, SC89635.

Latest Opinion Digests

See all digests

Top stories

See more news