September 6, 2011

Dinkins was convicted after a park bench trial

One of the cases that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser will get to hear today is State v. William Dinkins, Sr., which concerns the elements of reporting convicted sex offenders are required to comply with upon their release from prison, pursuant to the Wisconsin sex offender registry. Among those requirements: "The address at which the person is or will be residing." (Wis. Stat. § 301.45(2)(a)5.)

Despite his and his parole agent's repeated efforts to find someplace to live, Dinkins was unable to provide the "address" required by the statute and Dinkins was convicted of "knowingly" violating the reporting requirement. On appeal, Dinkins's conviction was thrown out, partly because the word "residing" is not defined in the statutes and the court of appeals determined that, "the term 'residing' in the address reporting requirement plainly does not encompass a park bench — or a heating grate, bush, highway underpass, or other similar on-the-street location, for that matter." The Department of Justice contested that ruling, claiming that accepting Dinkins's argument would enable other sex offenders to evade the address reporting requirement simply by not bothering to try and find a place to live, or "reside," as the statute says.

Which arguably would be a "knowing" evasion.

This case is not about other sex offenders, however.

It's about Dinkins, who contends:
Well-settled principles of statutory construction support Dinkins’ argument that a person in his unique position cannot be convicted of violating this statute by failing to report the address at which he will be residing without evidence that he knew, at the time he was required to make that report, where that residence would be. That is, [Dinkins's] knowledge of the location of his future residence is a necessary element of this crime. . . .
It would be absurd to convict a person of a Class H felony, which carries a maximum punishment of six years in prison, for failing to provide information which he doesn’t have or which may not even exist.
Seems straightforward enough to me. Sometimes the laws are poorly drafted and as this space suggested earlier, the solution is for the legislature to fix them, not bring them to this Supreme Court, which is dominated by alleged "conservatives" more inclined to make stuff up.

Which, obviously, the WISDOJ is depending upon this morning.

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