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Pedraza v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

April 1, 2015

VICTORIA PEDRAZA, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, APPELLEE

Editorial Note:

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the printed official reporter.

APPEAL FROM THE DREW COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. CR-2012-37-3B. HONORABLE ROBERT BYNUM GIBSON, JR., JUDGE.

Janice W. Vaughn, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Eileen W. Harrison, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge. WHITEAKER and VAUGHT, JJ., agree.

OPINION

BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge

Victoria Pedraza pled guilty to permitting abuse of a minor and was sentenced. She now appeals, arguing that the circuit judge erred by (1) requiring her to register as a sex offender, (2) engaging in inappropriate conduct during her sentencing trial, and (3) not disqualifying himself from presiding over her sentencing trial. We affirm.

Because Pedraza is not challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, only a brief recitation of the facts is necessary. Pedraza and her husband, Daniel, were charged with capital murder and permitting abuse after Pedraza's two-year-old daughter died as a result of multiple blunt-force injuries.[1] Victoria Pedraza later pled guilty to permitting abuse of a minor and agreed to testify against her husband. A jury sentenced Pedraza to twenty years' imprisonment for permitting abuse, and an order to this effect was entered in July 2013. This appeal followed.

I. Sex-Offender Registration

At sentencing, there was some discussion of whether Pedraza was required to register as a sex offender or whether the circuit court had discretion in the matter; the court asked the parties to brief the issue. The State filed a brief explaining that the crime to which Pedraza pled guilty, permitting abuse of a minor, is defined as a sex offense in Ark. Code Ann. § 12-12-903(12)(A)(i)(s) (Supp. 2013); that the registration requirement applies to those adjudicated guilty of a sex offense after August 1, 1997; and that, according to § 12-12-906(a)(1)(A)(i), the sentencing court " shall enter on the judgment and commitment or judgment and disposition form that the offender is required to register as a sex offender[.]" In a letter to the parties, the court agreed with the State and concluded that it " lacked the discretion to decide" whether Pedraza should be registered as a sex offender.

Two days later, Pedraza filed a motion to prevent the judgment from requiring her registration as a sex offender; in the accompanying brief, she argued that § 12-12-903 was vague and overbroad because it " does not specify that only those defendants that commit crimes involving sex . . . need to register." She argued that because all " crimes" under § 5-27-221 trigger the requirement to register as a sex offender, the sex-offender registration statute was over-inclusive, improper, and violated her constitutional rights.[2]

In a letter opinion dated July 24, the court denied Pedraza's motion, explaining that the statute was " explicit" that permitting abuse of a minor is a sex offense and that sex-offender registration was mandatory. On 20 August 2013, the court entered an order denying Pedraza's motion " as indicated in the letter from the Court dated July 24, 2013," and the sentencing order reflects that she was adjudicated guilty of an offense requiring sex-offender registration.

On appeal, Pedraza argues that the Sex Offender Registration Act is ambiguous because it " was intended to protect the public from 'sex abuse' and thus by the common language of the statute, the registration requirement does not, and should not[,] apply to Appellant." She argues that the circuit court should have exercised discretion in deciding whether to make her register as a sex offender. She also argues that ยง 12-12-903(12)(A)(i)(s) is ...


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