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Lawson v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

March 7, 2014

HOMER RAY LAWSON, APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY, APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM LAUREL CIRCUIT COURT. HONORABLE GREGORY A. LAY, JUDGE. ACTION NO. 11-CR-00267.

BRIEFS FOR APPELLANT: Emily Holt Rhorer, Department of Public Advocacy, Frankfort, Kentucky.

BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Jack Conway, Attorney General of Kentucky, W. Bryan Jones, Assistant Attorney General, Frankfort, Kentucky.

BEFORE: NICKELL, THOMPSON AND VANMETER, JUDGES. NICKELL, JUDGE, CONCURS. THOMPSON, JUDGE, DISSENTS, WITHOUT SEPARATE OPINION.

OPINION

Page 913

VANMETER, JUDGE

Homer Ray Lawson appeals from his conviction for failure to register as a sex offender. He claims the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on mistake of law. For the following reasons, we affirm.

In 2002, Lawson was convicted of one count of first-degree burglary and five counts of first-degree unlawful imprisonment. Two of the counts of unlawful imprisonment involved minors. He received a sentence of ten years' imprisonment.

On December 1, 2010, Lawson was released after completing his sentence. Under the Sexual Offender Registration Act (" SORA" ), Lawson was required to be placed on the registration system for adults who have committed sex crimes or crimes against minors. Before his release, Lawson was provided with a Kentucky sex offender registration responsibility form which explained his affirmative duties under SORA, including his duty to inform his local probation and parole office before moving. The form contained the following statements:

If my residence changes within the same county, I must notify the local probation and parole office on or before the date of the change of address. . . . I must register any address at which I reside for at least 14 consecutive days or 30 aggregate days during any calendar year.

Lawson complied with SORA by reporting to the local probation office upon his release and registering his parents' address in London, in Laurel County, as his residence. Later, after receiving a new form in the mail, he mailed in the form and again registered his parents' address.

On March 23, 2011, Lawson notified a probation and parole officer he had deactivated an email address and asked for a correction to his listing on the registry which erroneously indicated he had a rape conviction. On the Kentucky sex offender registry form he signed on that date, he again listed his parents' address as his residence. The form included the following language: " I also understand that prior to any change of address, I am required to notify the local probation and parole office."

In June 2011, Lawson became employed at a job twenty miles from his parents' residence. He began staying with his girlfriend at her home in Keavy, also in Laurel County, because he did not own a car and it was easier for him to arrange transportation to work. His girlfriend's father, who was also his co-worker and lived close by, drove Lawson to and from work. On the weekends, Lawson often returned home to his parents' residence.

Page 914

In late August 2011, London City Police Officer Joe Smith was performing address verification checks in Laurel County for registered offenders. Officer Smith went to Lawson's listed residence, learned Lawson was not living there anymore and was informed of Lawson's current Keavy address.

On August 30, 2011, Officer Smith arrested Lawson outside his Keavy residence after he returned from work. Lawson admitted to staying in Keavy most of the time for the past couple of months. When asked why he had not registered, he indicated he intended to do so when he received his modification form in the mail.

Lawson was indicted for failure to comply with the registration system for adults who have committed sex crimes or crimes against minors and for being a second-degree persistent felony offender (" PFO" ). At the jury trial, the Commonwealth presented testimony from Probation and Parole Officer Cheryl Cooper and Officer Smith.

Cooper testified Lawson signed an updated Kentucky sex offender registry form at the probation and parole office on March 23, 2011, but stated she did not read the form to him or explain his duties to update his registry ...


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