Sex Offender Registry
Facts: Carl Allen was convicted of sexual battery in Florida, moved to Tennessee, and registered on Tennessee Sex Offender Registry. He was originally classified as a “sexual” offender, was reclassified as a “violent” offender in 2009, and then was changed back to “sexual” in 2010. He was later charged with violating a registry condition applicable only to “violent” offenders. The Criminal Court determined that he should have only been classified as a “sexual” offender, and the charge was dismissed.
Allen then requested the TBI terminate him from the Registry. The TBI determined that he should have been classified as “violent” all along, denied his request for termination, and filed a civil motion to intervene in the Criminal Court case, contending that the Criminal Court had improperly exercised civil jurisdiction. The Criminal Court granted the motion to intervene, determined that it lacked jurisdiction to order the TBI to change his classification, and vacated the portion of the order directing the TBI to change his classification. Allen appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Appellate Decision: The intermediate court held that Allen did not have an appeal of right to challenge the Criminal Court’s ruling per Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(b). The court noted that Allen had a remedy to challenge his classification by filing a request with the TBI, and then appealing to Chancery Court.
Review Granted: May 24, 2019. The Supreme Court invited interested parties to file amicus briefs and included in its order that, in addition to the issues raised by Allen, the Court is interested in “how, under either Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-39-201, et, seq., or any published regulations: 1) the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) classifies out-of-state sexual offenders for registration on the Tennessee Sexual Offender Registry; 2) the TBI notifies offenders of changes in classification; 3) and an offender, once classified or re-classified, can challenge a classification.”
Prediction: Ben thinks the Supreme Court will affirm for the reasons stated by the intermediate court. The Criminal Court lacked jurisdiction to purportedly direct the TBI to reclassify Allen, and there is no basis to appeal same (nor to direct the TBI to reclassify Allen through the instant appeal). The additional issues noted in the Supreme Court’s order granting review suggest that the Supreme Court is likely to express criticism of the Registry’s classification of out-of-state convictions as well as the TBI’s implementation system, which is responsible for much of the confusion in this case. David disagrees: the ambiguity in the statute would permit a challenge to an out-of-state classification, even in this context.