Sentencing for Failure to Comply with Sex Offender Registration Requirements

The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a federal district court's sentencing enhancement for a defendant who served time in prison for coercion and enticement of a minor and failed to update his personal information as a registered sex offender during his term of supervised release. This article details those sex offender registration requirements and how failure to comply can result in enhanced sentencing.

The Requirement of Registering as a Sex Offender

Sex Offender Registration

Requirement of Registering as a Sex Offender

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SONRA) outlines a list of minimum standards for sex offender registration. The legislation was passed to close previous gaps that existed in sex offender registration requirements that allowed required registrants to avoid updating their information in territories outside the U.S. and not having to verify their information in person at regular intervals. The registered offender must regularly update his registration for every jurisdiction in which he resides, is employed or goes to school. This means that if an offender lives and works in two different states, he must still update the registry for both states.

The failure to comply with sex offender registration requirements is considered a felony and comes with serious consequences for the offender as outlined below.

The Consequences of Failing to Register as a Sex Offender

Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 2250(a), anyone who is required to register as a sex offender under SONRA can face a fine and a maximum of 10 years in prison for failing to comply with the registration and updating requirements. If a convicted sex offender commits a violent crime and also knowingly fails to register or update his registration, then he could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison along with additional fines.

Even if an offender has otherwise regularly updated his registration information but then has a period of lapse in updates, he can still face serious consequences for failing to properly update his registration information. The failure to provide complete registration, such as giving a full, accurate address for an employer, home residence or school, is also treated as a failure to comply with registration requirements. If an offender is contacted by his probation officer while on supervised release after prison, he must timely respond and provide all information requested or face arrest for failing to comply with SONRA. When an offender is thought to be in violation of SONRA, a federal district court may issue a warrant for his arrest. A trial will be conducted for this new charge, and a sentencing hearing will follow if the defendant is convicted of failing to comply with SONRA.

Background on United States v. Nagell and the Issue of Sex Offender Registration

In United States v. Nagell, the defendant was sentenced to 30 months in prison for knowingly failing to update his sex offender registration upon his release from prison in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2250(a). The defendant had served 60 months in prison and had an additional eight years of supervised release for sexual crimes involving a minor. He was supposed to register as a sex offender and continue to update his registration with any changes in his residential address or employment information. In 2015, the defendant failed to update his registration with a change in his employment and did not provide a complete address for his new employer.

The district court sentenced the defendant to a two-level obstruction of justice enhancement for committing perjury when he testified on his own behalf at trial. The government argued that there were at least two instances at the defendant's trial on his charge for violating the SONRA requirements that directly contradicted the defendant's own testimony about his reason for failing to update his registration. The First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court's sentence as reasonable.

Challenging a Conviction for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender

Having to officially register as a sex offender is a serious requirement that will affect a person for the rest of their life. If you or a loved one are charged with failing to comply with sex offender registration requirements, it is crucial to speak with a trusted criminal defense advocate as soon as possible. Given the First Circuit's ruling in United States v. Nagell, anyone who is required to comply with SONRA should take extra care to do so as accurately and timely as possible to avoid serving additional time in prison.

About Brandon Sample

Brandon Sample is an attorney, author, and criminal justice reform activist. Brandon’s law practice is focused on federal criminal defense, federal appeals, federal post-conviction relief, federal civil rights litigation, federal administrative law, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).


  1. Jessica on May 24, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    What will happen to a lifetime moderate sex offender moves within the same county, but to a different address without notifying?

  2. Kelly m Griffith on April 20, 2021 at 5:59 pm

    I was convicted in 1994 for sexaul assault I was a junior in high school dating a white female who was a freshman her parents found out about the interracial relationship and press charges after prison i was told to register as sex offender i live in Garrison tx about 20 miles outside Nacogdoches texas and county i went several times and was told go court house and there go to the jail and it was like she not here or he not here was pulled over arrested for failure to register judge to me i should have kept coming everyday till I seen someone was sentenced to 3 years in prison in 2016 i got my third dwi and now there enhancements trying to give me 25 years is there any help or direction you can point me in i would truly be appreciated

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