Thursday, July 12, 2012

SORNA registration tiers matter

United States v. Stock, No. 10-5348, found here. Mr. Stock raises various challenges to SORNA itself, and loses them. He challenges the determination of his base offense level and wins that argument. Because he won that argument and got a remand, the Court only briefly addressed the reasonableness of his way-over-guidelines sentence (though they did smack the government for going overboard at sentencing).

SORNA violators are placed into three tiers - Tier I, Tier II, Tier III - based on the nature of their underlying conviction(s). Base offense levels are 12, 14, and 16 respectively. Mr. Stock's PSR calculated his based offense level starting at the Tier III offender level. Tier III is reserved for the worst crimes. Among other factors, they involve some form of genital contact. The Indiana crimes Mr. Stock had been convicted of did not require genital contact for conviction. The government attempted to show that though Mr. Stock plead guilty to sexual battery, he had actually raped his victims. The district court stated it did not consider the information presented because it was not reliable enough. However, it did still apply the Tier III base offense level.

The Sixth Circuit found Mr. Stock's convictions should have placed him in Tier II and remanded for resentencing. There's an interesting footnote about how to determine what tier is assigned to what prior convictions. Apparently, the Seventh Circuit is using a modified categorical approach similar to that used with Armed Career Criminal determinations.

When the Court addressed the length of Mr. Stock's sentence, it went into some detail about how it was an outlier when compared with sentences of similar SORNA violators. It also used the "more substantial variances require more substantial justifications" analysis largely absent from the Court's recent ruling in United States v. Brinley, No. 10-5829 (discussed in another blog entry).

No comments: