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Congress did not apply the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C.S. § 16901 et seq., to an individual who had, prior to SORNA’s enactment, been “unconditionally released,” that is, a person who was not in any special relationship with the federal government, but rather to an individual already subject to federal registration requirements that were themselves a valid exercise of federal power under the Military Regulation and Necessary and Proper Clauses, U.S. Const. art. I, § 8.
Respondent Kebodeaux was convicted by a special court-martial of a federal sex offense. After serving his sentence and receiving a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force, he moved to Texas where he registered with state authorities as a sex offender. Congress subsequently enacted the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which required federal sex offenders to register in the States where they live, study, and work, 42 U. S. C. §16913(a), and which applied to offenders who, when SORNA became law, had already completed their sentences, 28 CFR §72.3. When Kebodeaux moved within Texas and failed to update his registration, the Federal Government prosecuted him under SORNA, and the District Court convicted him. The Fifth Circuit reversed, noting that, at the time of SORNA's enactment, Kebodeaux had served his sentence and was no longer in any special relationship with the Federal Government. Believing that Kebodeaux was not required to register under the pre-SORNA Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, the court found that he had been “unconditionally” freed. That being so, the court held, the Federal Government lacked the power under Article I's Necessary and Proper Clause to regulate his intrastate movements. Certiorari was granted.
Did the Federal Government lack the power under Article I's Necessary and Proper Clause to regulate respondent’s intrastate movements?
The Court held that SORNA's registration requirements as applied to Kebodeaux fall within the scope of Congress' authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause. Contrary to the Fifth Circuit's critical assumption that Kebodeaux's release was unconditional, a full reading of the relevant statutes and regulations made clear that at the time of his offense and conviction he was subject to the Wetterling Act, which imposed upon him registration requirements very similar to SORNA's. According to the Court, the fact that these federal-law requirements in part involved compliance with state-law requirements made them no less requirements of federal law. The Court further noted that SORNA and the Wetterling Act were properly promulgated under the Military Regulation Clause, U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 14 and the Necessary and Proper Clause. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Fifth Circuit's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.