Court sides with repeat offender in cryptic Offender Registration requirement

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 8:08 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas Supreme Court has sided with a repeat offender in the case of an ambiguous Offender Registration Act requirement.

The Kansas Supreme Court says that the case of Appeal No. 123,077: State of Kansas v. Richard I. Moler II, was heard in a special evening docket on Oct. 3 in Parsons.

In the case, the Court said it reversed Moler’s two counts of violating the Kansas Offender Registration Act, which requires offenders to register “any vehicle owned or operated by the offender, or any vehicle the offender regularly drives, either for personal use or in the course of employment.”

Court records indicate that Moler did not register another person’s vehicle he drove only once. A Court of Appeals panel was divided on how to interpret the statute. The State had argued that the statute covers vehicles the offender drives once.

According to the Kansas Department of Corrections, Moler was originally convicted on criminal threat and aggravated escape, which both occurred in 2013. He was also convicted of another 2014 aggravated escape, a 2015 flee or attempt to elude law enforcement, and three violations of the Kansas Offender Registration Act.

In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Biles, the Court said it held the registration directive in the law is ambiguous. Under legislative history and the rule of lenity, which favors the accused when a criminal statute is ambiguous, it said it held that the statute’s mandate does not require an offender to register a vehicle of unknown ownership when the offender only drives it once.