In West Virginia, and other states throughout the country, when individuals are convicted of committing sex crimes, they are required to join their state sex offender registry. This registry is used to keep track of where sex offenders live and work, and to ensure that the public can have access to information about sex offenders in their neighborhood. Sex offender registries in West Virginia impose strict requirements on individuals to keep local police departments and communities promptly informed of any job or address changes, and they may risk severe punishment, including jail time, for failing to comply. A recent case before the Supreme Court of Appeals for West Virginia takes a look at which types of circumstances may amount to a failure to comply.
In State of West Virginia v. Beegle, the Supreme Court addressed Mr. Beegle’s conviction for failing to comply with the reporting requirements of the West Virginia Sex Offender Registration Act. In March 2014, Mr. Beegle reported to Marshall County authorities in West Virginia that he would be moving to a new address in the county, and that this was the address where he would be residing full time. A little over one month later, a process server began to attempt to serve Mr. Beegle with divorce papers but was unable to locate him at his new address. She eventually contacted Marshall County to inquire if there was another address available for Mr. Beegle. Concerned by the inability to locate him, West Virginia Troopers began to survey Mr. Beegle’s address, looking for evidence of his presence. For the next 10 days, they were unable to locate him at the address that he had reported. The West Virginia Troopers then issued a warrant for his arrest, based on a failure to provide a notice of address change, which took two more weeks to serve on Mr. Beegle. At trial, Mr. Beegle was convicted for failing to provide proper notice of an address change and sentenced to 36 months probation. He appealed.
On appeal, Mr. Beegle argued that the terms “address” and “residence” within the Sex Offender Registration Act were unconstitutionally vague, and that the State had insufficient evidence to show that he had failed to properly register a change of address. Mr. Beegle argued that he was living at his place of employment at the time he was arrested and that, although this was not listed as his place of residence on his registry forms, the address was on the form because he listed his employer. Accordingly, he argued that he did not fail to report the address change because the address was already available to authorities.
The Court rejected this argument, noting that the Registration Act specifically required sex offenders to report any change of residence, especially when moving from one county to the next. Although Mr. Beegle had previously listed his employer, he had not indicated that this was where he was living, and he had instead represented that he was living at an address in Marshall County, which was incorrect. The court further noted the importance of authorities having both a daytime (work) location for offenders as well as a correct nighttime (residence) location, which Mr. Beegle had not provided.
Finally, the court rejected any contention that the terms “address” or “residence” were vague, noting that sex offender registration forms clearly indicate that a physical residential address where one is living is required, and this is differentiated from one’s “place of employment.” Since the form specifically requested the locations where the offender would be spending his working and nonworking hours, the court held that this was sufficient to overcome any challenge of vagueness. In sum, the court upheld the conviction and sentence.
This appellate case is a reminder of the importance of adhering to any restrictions or conditions that may be imposed on you after a criminal conviction. If you are facing a potential conviction for a sex crime and are concerned about the Sex Offender Registration Act, or have general concerns about post-conviction responsibilities, our office can help. The West Virginia criminal defense lawyers at the Wolfe Law Firm have been serving clients in both state and federal courts for more than 25 years. Call us at 1-877-637-5756 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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