Man from California won case after arguing he was exempt from law
A convicted sex offender from California did not register with the government when he moved to New Mexico, and he even won a court case after claiming he was exempt from disclosing his presence.
This led to a reform effort in the New Mexico Legislature that culminated Wednesday when Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill to strengthen the state’s sex offender registration laws.
“I’m proud to sign this bill to give New Mexicans more peace of mind and to ensure that sex offenders can no longer take advantage of a potentially dangerous loophole,” Martinez said.
The measure, House Bill 570, was sponsored by Reps. Antonio Maestas, D-Albuquerque, and Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, both pictured.
Martinez publicly thanked Maestas, an attorney, for working with Republicans to update and strengthen the law.
Herrell said the legislation closed a loophole. Previously, certain sex offenders registered in another state did not have to register after moving to New Mexico.
But with the new law, they are required to register in New Mexico for the time remaining on their sentence from another state or for the time that would be required for an equivalent offense under New Mexico law, whichever is longer.
The bill also updated New Mexico’s sex offender registration law.
It requires those convicted of sex crimes to register not only their physical address but also email addresses and monikers they use on Internet sites. In addition, they must disclose telephone numbers, professional licenses and license plate numbers.
The new law resulted from the court case of Bruce D. Hall, a convicted sex offender in California who said he was not obligated to register with the government when he moved to Las Cruces.
Court records showed that Hall in 1999 was convicted in California of “annoying or molesting children,” a misdemeanor. An assistant attorney general in New Mexico stated in a court brief that Hall touched the genitals of three young boys.
New Mexico prosecutors sought and obtained an indictment of Hall in 2008 for violating New Mexico's Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.
Hall said that, despite his criminal record, he was not obligated to register as a sex offender in New Mexico. What he did in California was not a sex offense in New Mexico, he argued.
He won his case before the state Court of Appeals. A three-member panel of judges found that California and New Mexico had similar laws on sex crimes, but still said Hall was absolved from being listed as a sex offender in New Mexico.
“... The fact that both statutes may serve similar purposes is in no way controlling,” then-Chief Judge Celia Foy Castillo wrote in the decision. “Because the statutes differ on the essential element of touching or application of force, we hold that they are not equivalent under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.”
Furthermore, the appeals court ruled that Hall, then 61 years old, was not required to register as a sex offender in New Mexico.
The New Mexico attorney general’s staff said possibility of the state becoming a safe haven for certain sex offenders “cannot be overstated.” This led to the legislation carried by Herrell and Maestas.