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Arizona Court Discusses Important Sixth Amendment Case Regarding Sex Offender Registration

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona sex offense case discussing whether the defendant was properly ordered to register as a sex offender after he was convicted by a jury. The case involves the guarantees of the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial in criminal cases.

A Little Background into the Sixth Amendment

The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides, among other rights, that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” This right to a trial by jury has been expanded over the years. For example, in the case, Apprendi v. New Jersey, the U.S. Supreme Court held that any fact that increases the punishment a defendant may face must be found beyond a reasonable doubt by the jury.

The Facts of the Case

In the recent opinion issued by the Arizona Supreme Court, the defendant was convicted of a sexual offense. At trial, the jury determined that the victim was “fifteen or more years of age.” However, the jury did not formally make a specific finding as to the victim’s exact age.

At sentencing, the judge ordered the defendant to register as a sex offender under a statute that only applied when the victim was under the age of 18. In so doing, the court found, on its own, that the victim was less than 18 years of age. The defendant objected, arguing that such a finding must be made by a jury because it subjected him to additional punishment – sex offender registration.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument, affirming the lower court’s order that the defendant register as a sex offender. The court provided a lengthy analysis of its decision, discussing the intent of the registration requirement and the effects that the requirement has on defendants. However, the basis for the court’s opinion was fairly straightforward: the purpose of requiring a defendant to register as a sex offender is not considered “punishment.” Instead, the registration requirement has been interpreted to be a “civil regulatory requirement,” over which the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial does not apply.

Notably, if the age of the victim was relevant to the amount of jail time that an offense carried, the victim’s age would need to be found by the jury. It was only because the sex offender registration requirement was found not to be punitive in nature that the judge was able to make the finding without a jury.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona Sexual Offense?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with any type of Arizona sex offense, contact Attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. Attorney Novak is an aggressive and passionate criminal defense attorney with decades of experience handling all types of criminal cases, including Arizona sex cases. He is known for defending the rights of his clients at every stage, regardless of the charges they face. To learn more about how Attorney Novak can help you defend against he charged you are facing, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation.

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