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Turner v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Virginia

April 11, 2019

Thomas Sydney Turner, Appellant,
v.
Commonwealth of Virginia, Appellee.

          Court of Appeals No. 0826-17-2

         Present: All the Justices

         Upon an appeal from a judgment rendered by the Court of Appeals of Virginia.

         Upon consideration of the record, briefs, and arguments of counsel, for the reasons set forth below, the Court is of opinion that the judgment of the Court of Appeals should be affirmed.

         The Code of Virginia establishes a different registration regime for sex offenders and sexually violent offenders. A person who is classified as a sexually violent offender must register with the State Police every 90 days from the date of initial registration. Code § 9.1-904(A). A person who is a sex offender but not a sexually violent offender must register with the State Police on an annual basis. Id. The Code also specifies the out-of-state convictions for which a person must register in Virginia, and whether those convictions require a person to register as a sexually violent offender. Code § 9.1-902(F). The Commonwealth concluded that Thomas Sydney Turner was required to register as a sexually violent offender. When he failed to reregister within the 90-day period, he was prosecuted and convicted for failing to reregister as a sexually violent offender under Code § 18.2-472.1(B).

         Turner acknowledges that he must register as a sex offender. He argues, however, that he was erroneously classified as a sexually violent offender and he should not have been convicted for failing to reregister within the 90-day period. The trial court and the Court of Appeals disagreed. We granted Turner an appeal.

         The record establishes that, in 2004, Turner was convicted in Idaho of "Sexual Abuse of a Child Under the Age of 16, a felony," in violation of Idaho Code § 18-1506, [1] and he was ordered to register "as a sex offender" with the State of Idaho. Turner moved to Virginia from Idaho in 2016.

         On March 3, 2016, Turner registered as a sex offender at Virginia State Police headquarters. He acknowledged in writing that the State Police would review his registration to determine if he is required to register and the classification level associated with his registration. A March 15, 2016 letter from the State Police advised that Turner's Idaho offense had been classified as sexually violent. It further stated Turner was required to reregister every 90 days because his Idaho conviction was "substantially similar to a sexually violent offense as outlined in Section 9.1-902, Code of Virginia, and/or [he had been] convicted of an offense for which registration in a Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry is required under the laws of the jurisdiction where [he was] convicted."

         Ten days after the letter was sent, Turner appeared at State Police headquarters to register a change of address. On the registration form, Turner acknowledged he had been classified as a "Sexually Violent Offender" requiring him to reregister every 90 days. The registration form, which Turner signed, also advised that if he failed to reregister, he could be convicted under Code § 18.2-472.1. Four days later, on March 29, Turner registered another change of address. He again signed an acknowledgement that he was classified as a sexually violent offender and required to reregister every 90 days.

         Before his June 1, 2016 reregistration deadline, Turner returned to State Police headquarters to reregister and, again, acknowledged in writing his classification as a sexually violent offender. The reregistration form stated at the top, in all capital letters, "Violent Sex Offender" and reiterated he was required to reregister every 90 days.

         Turner's next reregistration deadline was August 30, 2016. Turner signed the reregistration form on August 23, 2016, but it was not received by the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry ("the Registry") until September 7, 2016.

         State Police began an investigation after Turner's reregistration form was received late, and an investigator met with Turner in late October. Turner told the trooper he had reregistered but was unsure of the date. He also said he thought he had to reregister only once or twice a year and that he had been classified as a non-violent offender in Idaho. Turner was arrested, charged, and convicted for failing to reregister as a sexually violent offender. The Court of Appeals of Virginia affirmed those convictions by unpublished opinion. This appeal followed.

         Code § 9.1-902(A) ...


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