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Williams v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

October 18, 2017

LARRY WILLIAMS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SECOND DIVISION [NO. 60CR-15-2107] HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER CHARLES PIAZZA, JUDGE

          William R. Simpson, Jr., Public Defender, by: Clint Miller, Deputy Public Defender, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Rachel Kemp, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          BRANDON J. HARRISON, JUDGE.

         This appeal requires us to read Arkansas's sex-offender-registration law and decide how two particular statutes apply to Larry Williams, who was convicted by the circuit court of failing to comply with the law and sentenced to three years' imprisonment as a result. Ark. Code Ann. § 12-12-904 (Supp. 2015) (failure to comply with reporting and registration requirements). Williams argues on appeal that the State didn't prove that he had to register as a sex offender at all, so he couldn't have violated the law when he failed to report a change of address to law-enforcement officials. He doesn't contest the court's finding that he failed to keep law enforcement timely informed of his residence, if the law does apply to him.

         I.

         In February 1993, Williams pled guilty to rape. He was sentenced to forty years in the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) on that charge, among other things. He was discharged from the ADC on 27 June 2014.

         In March 2016, the State filed an amended felony information and alleged that Williams had violated § 12-12-904 because he is a registered sex offender who had failed to report a change of address in May 2015 and had failed to register or verify his registration from 30 September 2015 to 1 February 2016.

         Williams waived his right to a jury trial, so a bench trial was held in April 2016 before the Pulaski County Circuit Court. At trial, Detective Matt Harrelson testified that Williams registered with the police department as a sex offender on 1 July 2014. A "Sex Offender Acknowledgment Form" that Williams had signed on 30 March 2015 stated that he was to return on 30 September 2015, in person, to the Little Rock Police Department and verify his address. In May 2015, however, Detective Harrelson arrested Williams after determining that he was not living at the registered address. (The record doesn't explain precisely what happened after this arrest.) On 22 June 2015, Williams gave law enforcement a residential address of 1723 South Elm Street; but it was too close to a school or park, so Detective Harrelson allowed Williams time to move. The detective subsequently received a delinquent-verification-of-residency letter from the Arkansas Crime Information Center (ACIC) indicating that Williams had missed the September 30 deadline to verify his residence. On 12 November 2015, Detective Harrelson visited Williams's registered address (1723 South Elm Street), and it appeared to be vacant. Because the detective didn't know where Williams was located, an arrest warrant issued, and he was arrested in due course.

         Paula Stitz testified during the trial that she manages the state sex offender registry for the ACIC and, when asked, said that the effective date of the laws requiring sex offenders to register was 1 August 1997, that rape was a qualifying offense requiring registration, and that a person who had previously been convicted of rape and was serving a term of imprisonment on August 1, 1997, had to register when released from custody. On cross-examination, Stitz agreed that Williams's 1993 judgment and commitment order doesn't direct that he had to register as a sex offender.

         Williams seized on the fact that the 1993 order doesn't expressly state that registration was required by arguing in his motion to dismiss below that the language in the "four corners" of the 1993 order doesn't contain the mandatory language required by § 12-12- 906 (A)(1) (a)(i), which states:

At the time of adjudication of guilt, 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 and shall indicate whether the:
(a) Offense is an aggravated sex offense;
(b) Sex offender has been adjudicated guilty of a prior sex offense under a ...

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