Nov
30

Dunn v. The State: A Picayune Ruling

Derrick Todd Dunn can't catch a break, and the good people of Georgia will make sure he never does.

Dunn was convicted of statutory rape in 1996. In other words, he had sexual contact with a person deemed unable to give consent. This can mean any number of things. Did he make love to the girl next door? Or was the act sinister? The reported decision, Dunn v. The State, Georgia, Supreme Court, S09A1369, doesn't say. It simply reports that he is a sex offender, and, in Georgia, that means he might be guilty of no more than a criminal offense with a minor.

Don't be offended when I say "no more than a criminal offense with a minor." I am not in favor of child molestation. But it does pay to recall a little history. Laws currently on the books reflecting the age at which a person can give consent to sexual contact are comparatively recent. It was not until the late 1880s that the Women Christian Temperance Union began to agitate for laws raising the age of consent from 10, which was current in many states, to 18. By 1920, the age of consent was 16 to 18 years old in nearly every state.

We simply do not know why Derrick Todd Dunn is required to register. I am willing to bet that it was due to consensual contact with a woman near the age of consent, however. I say this because he is out of prison now. A truly shocking crime would have carried a far greater penalty.

Mr. Dunn must register as a sex offender wherever he lives in Georgia. If he moves, he must register anew with local law enforcement within 72 hours.

On January 17, 2009, Mr. Dunn lived a certain address and was registered. That very day, he left that residence and went to a hotel, the Calhoun Lodge, where he stayed for fice or six days. He moved to a new permanent address on January 23, 2009. He duly appeared at law enforcement's door on January 26, 2009 to report the new address.

He was met with handcuffs, apparently. You see, he failed to report his temporary address at the Calhoun Lodge. Georgia prosecutors filed a motion to revoke his probation and return him to prison. Mr. Dunn's counsel responded that the law did not require notification of temporary addresses.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the law requires registration of temporary addresses as well. There is no due process violation because the law is not vague; the law's terms are clear enough for any person to understand them. Never mind that the law is unreasonable; it is clear. That is enough.

The case saddens. Reading between the lines, Mr. Dunn is still struggling 13 years after his conviction to find solid ground. He is itinerant and struggling. Rather than lend a helping hand, Georgia prosecutors have adopted a zero tolerance policy for what appears to be even technical violations of the sex offender registration laws. Is Mr. Dunn really that bad, or is Georgia simply unreasonable?
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About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

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I believe that the state is a necessary fiction and that failing to combat it is the first step toward tyranny.
– Norm Pattis

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Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice about your case. You need a lawyer who understands the context of your life and situation. What are offered here are merely suggested lines of inquiry you may explore with your lawyer.

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