“Sexual Intent” is Not Required for Mandatory Registration of Person Convicted of False Imprisonment of a Minor

Although A.R.S. is commonly referred to as the statute requiring registration with the Sheriff’s Department of persons convicted of sexual offenses relating to minors, the registration requirement is not limited to crimes involving sexual intent according to the Arizona Court of Appeals in a case it decided (State v. Coleman) on November 22, 2016.  The section in question, A.R.S. Section 13-3821 enumerates twenty-one separate offenses requiring defendants who are convicted to register with the sheriff in the county of conviction as an offender within ten days following conviction.  Of those twenty-one offenses, twenty refer to specific acts of a sexual nature as elements of the crime committed.  However, the first of the enumerated crimes merely requires the defendant to be found guilty of “Unlawful imprisonment… if the victim is under eighteen years of age and the unlawful imprisonment was not committed by the child’s parent.”

In Coleman, the defendant was convicted of such imprisonment, and the jury specifically determined that “the state did not prove it was committed with sexual motivation…”  Nonetheless, the judge following the trial required Coleman to register as an offender under the act following the trial.  Coleman argued on appeal that the clear intent of the statute was to register those who perform acts of an aberrant nature on minors and that sexual wrongdoing is an implicit element in one’s having to register.  Coleman supported his argument by citing the legislature’s expressed intent of  “regulating sex offenders” and the lack of any rationale relationship between the crime he was convicted of and sexual offenses.  The court of appeals differed with him, however, and noted that the legislative requirement need not be limited to a single legislative goal, but must only bear a rational relationship to any legislative purpose.

The court noted that the legislative record indicates the statute was meant to “bring Arizona’s sex offender registration and community notification laws into compliance with [the federal law].”  Because, however, Arizona’s legislature’s purpose was to comply with the federal statute, it said it is incumbent to review the Congressional Record to determine the goal of federal legislation (Jacob Wetterling Act).  According to the Congressional Record, one representative stated the purpose of the act as being “because of the high rate of recidivism in persons who have committed crimes against children, and it is not just sex crimes against children but all crimes against children.”   Based on that language and other similar considerations, the court indicated that the clear purpose of the act is to protect children from persons dangerous to them, whether that danger is of a sexual nature or not.  Thus, reasoned the court, “[T]he choice to limit unlawful imprisonment and kidnapping of a minor by a non-parent as offenses requiring registration is neither arbitrary nor irrational.”

As such, the requirement that Coleman register with the sheriff was upheld.

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