09 August 2011

Language of a Statute

A question came in my email:
In Virginia Code sec. 9.1-910 does "two or more offenses for which registration is required" mean two offenses with time in between offenses, two different offenses, or any two offenses regardless if they were part of one occurence?
As I read it - AND THIS IS STRICTLY MY OPINION, NOT LEGAL ADVICE the language is not ambiguous. Here's the statute:
Any person required to register, other than a person who has been convicted of any . . . (ii) two or more offenses for which registration is required [may petition a court after 15 or 25 years to be struck from the sex offender registry.]
It simply reads "two or more offenses." There are no qualifiers added. It means conviction of two charges, however they may have occurred or whenever they may have been convicted.

A quick look at other Virginia statutes which deal with multiple sexual offenses seems to support this interpretation. 18.2-67.5:1 (3d misdemeanor sexual offense) states of the prior two "each such offense occurring on a different date." 18.2-67.5:3 (punishment of a subsequent sexual assault) and 18.2-67.5:4 (punishment of a subsequent violent sexual assault) both state the second offense must occur "when such offenses were not part of a common act, transaction or scheme, and [the defendant] has been at liberty as defined in § 53.1-151 between each conviction." The presence of this language in the other statutes indicates that the General Assembly includes this types of language when it intends to separate the offenses in some manner. Therefore, 9.1-910's lack of this language would indicate the General Assembly did not intend to put this kind of separation between the offenses.

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