SOURCE: US Government SMART Newsletter
In 2011, the Supplemental Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification officially included in SORNA’s standards the obligation that jurisdictions require their registered sex offenders to provide 21 days’ notice of any international travel. However, before International Megan’s Law passed, it was difficult to federally prosecute sex offenders for failing to notify registration officials of intended international travel or relocation. For example, in Nichols v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1113 (2016), the Supreme Court held that a sex offender could not be federally prosecuted for failure to register under 18 U.S.C. § 2250 (as it stood in 2012) if they simply moved to a foreign country without notifying the state where they had been registered prior to moving.
Because of this loophole, International Megan’s Law specifically amended 18 U.S.C. § 2250(b) to criminalize the failure of an offender to provide notice of intended international travel. An early successful prosecution under this new provision happened in the Northern District of Alabama in 2017. Alabama substantially implemented SORNA in 2011, including international travel notification requirements. For jurisdictions that have not implemented the 2011 international travel notification requirement, this could impact your ability to prosecute under this offense.
In 1991, Robin McSherdon was convicted in Alabama of sexual abuse in the first degree; his victim was 4 years old and he was classified as a tier III sex offender and required to register for life. In 2016, McSherdon was advised on numerous occasions of his responsibility to provide 21 days’ advance notice of any international travel.
Without providing this required notice, McSherdon purchased a one-way airline ticket to fly from Birmingham, Alabama, to Manila, Philippines, and was scheduled to depart on Feb. 1, 2017. On that date, he arrived at the Birmingham airport and attempted to check in to his flight, but was denied access because he had neither a roundtrip ticket nor an appropriate visa. McSherdon was arrested later that day at home and admitted he intended to fly to the Philippines and return prior to his next scheduled registration check-in date.
McSherdon was successfully prosecuted under the International Megan’s Law amendments to 18 U.S.C. § 2250(b), pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 27 months’ imprisonment.