United States v. Kebodeaux

While serving in the Air Force in 1999, a military tribunal convicted twenty-one-year-old Anthony Kebodeaux of statutory rape for having consensual sex with a fifteen-year-old girl.  Following a three-month sentence and bad-conduct discharge, Kebodeaux moved to Texas, where he became subject to strict lifetime registration requirements that include annual in-person registration and registration updates upon intrastate movement.  Seven years later, in 2006, Congress enacted the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”), which imposes registration requirements on sex offenders convicted under state or federal law, and additionally prescribes penalties for failure to register. After failing to update his registration following an intrastate move in 2008, Kebodeaux was convicted under SORNA in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas and sentenced to one year and one day in prison, plus five years of supervised release. Kebodeaux appealed this conviction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, arguing that Congress did not have jurisdiction to criminalize his intrastate movements. The Fifth Circuit, sitting en banc, reversed the District Court’s conviction, holding that as applied to Kebodeaux, SORNA’s registration requirements were unconstitutional as exceeding Congress’s Article I powers. On appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States argues that SORNA did not constitute overreaching by the federal government because Kebodeaux was consistently subject to federal jurisdiction, having committed a federal offense under military law. In response, Kebodeaux contends that his release from prison pre-SORNA was unconditional, meaning that he is bound only by state registration requirements and any reassertion of federal jurisdiction over him through SORNA would be unconstitutional.  This case will also examine the balance between the benefits of uniformity in a comprehensive registration system against considerations of state sovereignty.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 

1. Whether the court of appeals erred in conducting its constitutional analysis on the premise that respondent was not under a federal registration obligation until SORNA was enacted, when pre-SORNA federal law obligated him to register as a sex offender.

2. Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that Congress lacks the Article I authority to provide for criminal penalties under 18 U.S.C. 2250(a)(2)(A), as applied to a person who was convicted of a sex offense under federal law and completed his criminal sentence before SORNA was enacted.


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