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Jeffries v. Justice and Public Safety Cabinet

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

August 23, 2019

BILLY S. JEFFRIES APPELLANT
v.
JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY CABINET and COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM FRANKLIN CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE THOMAS D. WINGATE, JUDGE ACTION NO. 17-CI-01302

          BRIEFS FOR APPELLANT: Timothy G. Arnold

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEES: Graham Gray, Aaron Ann Cole

          BEFORE: GOODWINE, LAMBERT, AND MAZE, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          LAMBERT, JUDGE

         Billy S. Jeffries has appealed from the order of the Franklin Circuit Court denying his motion for summary judgment challenging his need to register as a sex offender pursuant to Kentucky's Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 17.500 et. seq. Finding no error, we affirm.

         The facts underlying this appeal were the subject of a joint stipulation, which we shall rely on in this opinion. In June 1997, Jeffries was convicted in Shelby Circuit Court (95-CR-00049) for the murder and attempted first-degree rape of a 77-year-old woman. Jeffries was 15 years old when the crimes took place. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison, and he served out his sentence on May 1, 2017. On April 25, 2017, Jeffries registered as a sex offender by completing a Kentucky Sex Offender Registration Form, which listed him as a 20-year registrant. Pursuant to KRS 17.580, his registration information was posted on the public website of the Kentucky State Police. This public Sex Offender Registry website permits members of the public to search for registrants by name, address, or location, and they may ask to be informed if a registrant changes residence. Jeffries currently lives in McCreary County, Kentucky. Several documents were jointly filed, including the final judgment in Jeffries' criminal case, his Sex Offender Registration Form, his current web flyer posted on the Kentucky State Police public website, his discharge notice from the Department of Corrections, and the Sex Offender Registrant Responsibilities form he signed.

         On December 18, 2017, Jeffries filed a complaint with the Franklin Circuit Court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief related to his need to register as a sex offender pursuant to SORA. As defendants, he named the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet (the agency responsible for developing and implementing the system) and the Commonwealth of Kentucky (the entity initiating prosecutions for violations of SORA) (collectively, the Cabinet). Jeffries stated that upon his release from custody in May 2017, he moved in with his wife and her two children in McCreary County. Also upon his release, he was told that he had to register as a sex offender for 20 years and comply with a list of conditions. These conditions included the prohibition from being on school or daycare grounds without written permission of the principal or school board pursuant to KRS 17.545(2), and he claimed that having to notify the officials where his step-children attended school would result in community members being informed of his status as a sex offender. This, he claimed, would negatively affect the children's education. He was unable to participate in any school events involving the children or to assist in parental duties, including picking the children up from school. Jeffries also alleged that he was prohibited from taking photographs of or filming his step-children without his wife's written permission pursuant to KRS 17.546(2). Finally, he stated that his status as a sex offender registrant had made it difficult to find and maintain employment, which was significantly impairing his ability to provide for his family.

         For his claims for relief, Jeffries contended that as a youthful offender, SORA's retroactive application to him violated both the Kentucky and United States Constitutions as it was an ex post facto law, was cruel and unusual punishment, and because the registration requirement was not rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest. He requested that SORA be declared unconstitutional as applied to him. In its answer, the Cabinet sought dismissal of Jeffries' complaint.

         In March 2018, the parties entered into stipulated facts as set forth above, and a briefing schedule was set. Jeffries filed a motion for summary judgment or to set the matter for a trial, to which the Cabinet responded. On August 6, 2018, the circuit court entered an opinion and order denying Jeffries' motion for summary judgment and entering a judgment in favor of the Cabinet, thereby dismissing Jeffries' complaint. This appeal now follows.

         Our standard of review is set forth in Scifres v. Kraft, 916 S.W.2d 779, 781 (Ky. App. 1996), as follows:

The standard of review on appeal of a summary judgment is whether the trial court correctly found that there were no genuine issues as to any material fact and that the moving party was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure (CR) 56.03. There is no requirement that the appellate court defer to the trial court since factual findings are not at issue. Goldsmith v. Allied Building Components, Inc., Ky., 833 S.W.2d 378, 381 (1992). "The record must be viewed in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion for summary judgment and all doubts are to be resolved in his favor." Steelvest, Inc. v. Scansteel Service Center, Inc., Ky., 807 S.W.2d 476, 480 (1991). Summary "judgment is only proper where the movant shows that the adverse party could not prevail under any circumstances." Steelvest, 807 S.W.2d at 480, citing Paintsville Hospital Co. v. Rose, Ky., 683 S.W.2d 255 (1985). Consequently, summary judgment must be granted "[o]nly when it appears impossible for the nonmoving party to produce evidence at trial warranting a judgment in his favor . . ." Huddleston v. Hughes, Ky. App., 843 S.W.2d 901, 903 (1992), citing Steelvest, supra (citations omitted).

         "Because summary judgment involves only legal questions and the existence of any disputed material issues of fact, an appellate court need not defer to the trial court's decision and will review the issue de novo." Lewis v. B&R Corp., 56 S.W.3d 432, 436 (Ky. App. 2001) (footnote omitted).

         Here, the parties have stipulated to the facts; therefore, the only issues before us involve questions of statutory interpretation, which constitute questions of law:

This appeal involves the interpretation of a statute. Statutory construction is an issue of law and, accordingly, we review the circuit court's statutory construction de novo. See Cumberland Valley Contractors, Inc. v. Bell County Coal Corp., 238 S.W.3d 644, 647 (Ky. 2007).
The primary purpose of judicial construction is to carry out the intent of the legislature. In construing a statute, the courts must consider the intended purpose of the statute -the reason and spirit of the statute-and the mischief intended to be remedied. The courts should reject a construction that is unreasonable and absurd, in preference for one that is reasonable, rational, sensible and intelligent.
Commonwealth v. Kash, 967 S.W.2d 37, 43-44 (Ky. App. 1997) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). In construing a statute, a court should "use the plain meaning of the words used in the statute." Monumental Life Insurance Company v. Department of Revenue, 294 S.W.3d 10, 19 (Ky. App. 2008).

Commonwealth v. Davis, 400 S.W.3d 286, 287-88 (Ky. App. 2013).

         The version of KRS 17.510 in effect when Jeffries registered as a sex offender provided as follows:[1]

(1) The cabinet shall develop and implement a registration system for registrants which includes creating a new computerized information file to be accessed through the Law Information Network of Kentucky.
(2) A registrant shall, on or before the date of his or her release by the court, the parole board, the cabinet, or any detention facility, register with the appropriate local probation and parole office in the county in which he or she intends to reside. The person in charge of the release shall facilitate the registration process.
(3) Any person required to register pursuant to subsection (2) of this section shall be informed of the duty to register by the court at the time of sentencing if the court grants probation or conditional discharge or does not impose a penalty of incarceration, or if incarcerated, by the official in charge of the place of confinement upon release. The court and the official shall require the person to read and sign any form that may be required by the cabinet, stating that the duty of the person to register has been explained to the person. The court and the official in charge of the place of confinement shall require the releasee to complete the acknowledgment form and the court or the official shall retain the original completed form. The official shall then send the form to the Information Services Center, Department of Kentucky State Police, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601.
(4) The court or the official shall order the person to register with the appropriate local probation and parole office which shall obtain the person's fingerprints, DNA sample, and photograph. Thereafter, the registrant shall return to the appropriate local probation and parole office not less than one (1) time every two (2) years in order for a new photograph to be obtained, and the registrant shall pay the cost of updating the photo for registration purposes. Any registrant who has not provided a DNA sample as of July 1, 2009, shall provide a DNA sample to the appropriate local probation and parole office when the registrant appears for a new photograph to be obtained. Failure to comply with this requirement shall be punished as set forth in subsection (11) of this section.
(5) (a) The appropriate probation and parole office shall send the registration form containing the registrant information, fingerprint card, and photograph, and any special conditions imposed by the court or the Parole Board, to the Information Services Center, Department of Kentucky State Police, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601. The appropriate probation and parole office shall send the DNA sample to the Department of Kentucky State Police forensic laboratory in accordance with administrative regulations promulgated by the cabinet.
(b) The Information Services Center, upon request by a state or local law enforcement agency, shall make available to that agency registrant information, including a person's fingerprints and photograph, where available, as well as any ...

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