Three Strike Violation of the Sex Offender Registration Statute

In People v. Carmony (2005) 127 Cal.App.4th 1066, the court concluded that the Three Strike sentence of 25 years to life was so grossly disproportionate to the violation of the sex offender registration statute at issue in that case that it "shocked the conscience of the court and offended notions of human dignity" and thus constituted cruel and/or unusual punishment under both the federal and state constitutions. (Id. at p. 1073.) The "defendant had registered his correct address as a sex offender with the police one month before his birthday, as required by law ... but failed to 'update' his registration with the same information within five working days of his birthday as also required by law." (Id. at p. 1071.) The defendant's information had not changed in the interim, "and in fact his parole agent arrested the defendant at the address where he was registered." (Ibid.) Nevertheless, the defendant was charged with the registration violation, a felony to which he pled guilty, and three prior strike convictions, which he admitted, and the trial court sentenced him to the mandatory Three Strikes term of 25 years to life in prison. (Id. at pp. 1072-1073.) The appellate court characterized the crime as the "willful failure to file a duplicate registration as a sex offender." (Carmony, supra, 127 Cal.App.4th at p. 1086.) It was a crime of omission--"a passive, nonviolent, regulatory offense, which causes no harm and poses no danger to the public." (Ibid.) The court explained: "It is a rare case that violates the prohibition against cruel and/or unusual punishment. However, there must be a bottom to that well. If the constitutional prohibition is to have a meaningful application it must prohibit the imposition of a recidivist penalty based on an offense that is no more than a harmless technical violation of a regulatory law." (Id. at p. 1072.)