from the District Court of Park County The Honorable Steven
R. Cranfill, Judge
Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender:
Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief
Appellate Counsel; Kirk A. Morgan, Senior Assistant Appellate
Counsel. Argument by Mr. Morgan.
Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney
General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; James
Michael Causey, Senior Assistant Attorney General; John A.
Brodie, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Brodie.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
Appellant Alex J. Vaughn was adjudicated a delinquent
juvenile for committing a serious sexual offense that
required him to register as an offender under the Wyoming
Sexual Offender Registration Act (WSORA). He subsequently
failed to report changes in his address as required, and pled
guilty to two felony counts for failing to do so. His plea
was conditional and allowed him to appeal his convictions on
constitutional grounds. We affirm.
1. Is Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-19-301(a)(iii) of the WSORA
unconstitutional as applied to Appellant because it creates
an irreconcilable conflict with Wyoming's Juvenile
Justice Act (WJJA), Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-201 et
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-19-301(a)(iii) of the WSORA violate
Appellant's right to equal protection under the Wyoming
Constitution because qualifying adjudicated delinquents must
register, while adults (or juveniles charged as adults) whose
prosecutions are deferred pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. §
7-13-301 are not required to register?
the WSORA's lifetime registration provision in Wyo. Stat.
Ann. § 7-19-304(a) violate Appellant's right to due
process (1) because it encroaches upon his protected right to
reputation and confidentiality or (2) by creating an
irrebuttable presumption that an offender's risk of
reoffense is high?
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-19-301(a)(iii) of the WSORA violate
the United States Constitution Art. 1, § 10 prohibition
against enacting ex post facto laws?
As explained in more detail in the discussion below, see
infra ¶¶ 13-15, the WSORA requires individuals
who have committed certain sex crimes to register as sex
offenders in Wyoming. See Wyo. Stat. Ann.
§§ 7-19-301(a)(iii), (viii) & -302 (LexisNexis
2015). On July 1, 2011, the number of those subject to the
act expanded, as the definition of "convicted" of a
sex offense under WSORA was amended to include
"adjudications as a delinquent for offenses specified in
W.S. 7-19-302(j)." See 2011 Wyo Sess. Laws Ch.
179, § 1 (H.B. 23). This amendment not only affected
qualifying juveniles from that point on, but also applied to
those that had been previously adjudicated as delinquents for
such serious sexual crimes. Id. The latter scenerio
is where Appellant's circumstance falls.
[¶4] A few months before the amendment, in May of 2011,
Appellant, then 17 years old, appeared in juvenile court and
was adjudicated a delinquent for a sexual offense as provided
in the WJJA, § 14-6-201. He was placed at the Wyoming
Boys School, released on December 1, 2012, and placed on
supervised probation. After he completed the requirements it
had ordered, the juvenile court closed and sealed his file in
April of 2013.
Because the expanded definition of "convicted"
applied to Appellant, he was required to register as a sex
offender when the amendment went into effect in July of 2011.
He apparently complied with the reporting requirements until
2014. On July 8, 2014, Vaughn reported in person to the Park
County Sheriff's Office to register as a sex offender as
required by the WSORA. He informed the deputies that he lived
in an apartment complex in Cody, but he failed to return the
required address verification form to the sheriff's
office. As a result, two months later the sheriff reported
Appellant to the Wyoming Sex Offender Registry as
non-compliant. In October of 2014, an investigator with the
Park County Sheriff's Office learned that Appellant had
moved from the Cody apartment complex in August, and that he
did not notify the sheriff's office of this move.
An information charging Appellant with two felonies for
failing to keep his sex offender registration information
current was filed on December 1, 2014. Appellant filed a
motion to dismiss, asserting that the WSORA was
unconstitutional. The district court denied Appellant's
motion. He then entered a conditional guilty plea to the
crimes charged pursuant to a plea agreement, reserving the
right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion
to dismiss. He was sentenced to not less than two nor more
than four years of imprisonment, and he timely perfected this
Appellant's issues are all based upon claims that the
WSORA is unconstitutional. "The question of whether a
statute is constitutional is a question of law over which
this Court exercises de novo review."
Kammerer v. State, 2014 WY 50, ¶ 5, 322 P.3d
827, 830 (Wyo. 2014). Statutes are presumed to be
constitutional, and we will resolve any doubt in favor of
WSORA and the WJJA
Appellant first argues that the non-penal, equitable and
confidential character of the WJJA conflicts irreconcilably
with the WSORA's registry requirements for adjudicated
juvenile offenders. He contends this conflict creates a
constitutionally impermissible ambiguity in these statutes,
which ought to require that they be interpreted in his favor
due to the rule of lenity.
In order to address Appellant's first issue, we must
necessarily interpret both the WSORA and WJJA. Rulings
involving interpretation of statutes are reviewed de
novo. In re HLL, 2016 WY 43');">2016 WY 43, ¶ 21, 372
P.3d 185, 189 (Wyo. 2016). Statutes that provide for the care
and discipline of juveniles are generally given a liberal and
practical construction in favor of the child's welfare.
KP v. State, 2004 WY 165, ¶ 27, 102 P.3d 217,
225 (Wyo. 2004) (quoting TPJ v. State, 2003 WY 49,
¶ 25, 66 P.3d 710, 715 (Wyo. 2003)). The plain language
of the statutes still controls our search for the
legislature's intent, however. Id.
We construe statutory provisions in pari materia,
which requires that we give effect to every word, clause, and
sentence according to the interplay between the provisions.
Cheyenne Newspapers, Inc. v. City of Cheyenne, 2016
WY 125, ¶ 11, 386 P.3d 329, 333 (Wyo. 2016). We consider
all statutes relating to the same subject or having the same
general purpose, and we strive to interpret them
harmoniously. Id. "We presume that the
legislature has acted in a thoughtful and rational manner
with full knowledge of existing law, and that it intended new
statutory provisions to be read in harmony with existing law
and as part of an overall and uniform system of
jurisprudence." Id. (quoting Robert L.
Kroenlein Trust ex rel. Alden v. Kirchhefer, 2015 WY
127, ¶ 22, 357 P.3d 1118, 1126 (Wyo. 2015)).
With these principles in mind, we turn first to the WJJA,
which Wyoming enacted in the mid-20th Century.
See Wyoming Compiled Statutes, § 1-701 et
seq., (Arthur A. Sandusky, comp. 1945, 1957 Cum. Supp.);
1951 Wyo. Sess. Laws Ch. 125 (H.B. 35). Cases under the WJJA
are not criminal; rather, they are special proceedings.
KP, ¶ 27, 102 P.3d at 225. These proceedings
are therefore equitable and not punitive. They are intended
to assure "treatment, training and rehabilitation"
for children, and to "provide for the care, the
protection and the wholesome moral, mental and physical
development of children" coming within its provisions.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-201(c)(ii)(C) and (c)(iii);
KP, ¶ 27, 102 P.3d at 225. Thus, "one of
the purposes of a delinquency proceeding is '[t]o remove,
where appropriate, the taint of criminality from children
committing certain unlawful acts.'" K.C. v.
State, 2011 WY 108, ¶ 16, 257 P.3d 23, 28 (Wyo.
2011) (quoting Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-201(c)(ii)(B)).
Accordingly, "[t]he question for adjudication is whether
the allegations contained in the petition alleging
delinquency are true." K.C., ¶ 16, 257
P.3d at 28. If the allegations are found to be true, such a
finding "is not deemed a conviction of guilt, but is a
determination that judicial intervention is necessary for the
best interest and welfare of the child and the public."
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-225(b). "No order or decree
pursuant to this act shall be deemed a conviction of a crime
or impose any civil disabilities, nor shall it disqualify the
child for any civil or military service application or
appointment or from holding public office." Wyo. Stat.
Ann. § 14-6-238. To prevent the public from knowing of
an adjudication of delinquency, the WJJA requires that the
case and all records flowing from it remain confidential,
with certain strict exceptions. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §
Now that we have considered the WJJA's ethos and its
requirements, we must examine the WSORA. As we briefly noted
above, see supra ¶ 3, the WSORA requires
individuals who have committed certain sexual crimes to
register as sex offenders. In 1994, Wyoming joined the
majority of other states in enacting legislation relating to
sex offender registration. Kammerer, ¶ 6, 322
P.3d at 830. Originally the WSORA only applied to adults, but
in 2011, the act was amended to include juveniles who were
adjudicated delinquent for certain serious sexual offenses.
See 2011 Wyo. Sess. Laws Ch. 179 (H.B. 23). The
WSORA now includes the following language:
"Convicted" includes pleas of guilty, nolo
contendere, verdicts of guilty upon which a judgment of
conviction may be rendered and adjudications as a
delinquent for offenses specified in W.S. 7-19-302(j).
"Convicted" shall not include dispositions pursuant
to W.S. 7-13-301.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-19-301(a)(iii) (emphasis added).
Under the WSORA, qualifying sexual offenders must register
with the county sheriff in their county of residence. Wyo.
Stat. Ann. § 7-19-302(a). "The basic provisions of
the Act require the registrant to provide identifying
information, including the registrant's name, aliases,
address, date and place of birth, social security number,
place and address of employment, a DNA sample, and any
internet identifiers." Kammerer, ¶ 7, 322
P.3d at 830. The offender is also required to "provide
the date and place of his conviction, the crime for which he
was convicted, the age of each victim, the name and address
of educational institutions at which the registrant is
employed or attending school, the license plate number and
description of his vehicle, and any phone number at which the
registrant may be reached." Id. (citing §
7-19-302(a)). The registrant must also be photographed and
The WSORA also establishes a central registry for offenders,
and it requires that certain identifying information be made
available to the public. Kammerer, ¶ 8, 322
P.3d at 831 (citing § 7-19-303(a), (c)(iii)). The
limited notice provisions that apply to qualifying juveniles
mandate that the offender's information "be provided
. . . to residential neighbors within at least seven hundred
fifty (750) feet of the offender's residence,
organizations in the community, including schools, religious
and youth organizations . . . ." Wyo. Stat. Ann. §
7-19-303(c)(ii). "In addition, notification regarding an
offender employed by or attending school at any educational
institution shall be provided upon request by the educational
institution to a member of the institution's campus
community . . . ." Id. However, unlike adult
offenders, a juvenile's information is not made available
to the general public on the internet. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §
7-19-303(c)(iii). The method of disseminating information
does not change when a juvenile sex offender reaches the age
of majority, as Appellant had when he was charged in this
After comparing the two acts, we understand how one might say
there is an irreconcilable tension between the
confidentiality requirements of the WJJA, and the requirement
that information concerning an adjudicated delinquent be made
available to a limited circle of the public under the WSORA.
We further recognize that the limited public notification
requirement for juveniles under the WSORA could stigmatize
juvenile offenders. But as we dig deeper into the purpose of
the WJJA, we perceive a congruency, rather than a conflict,
between the two acts.
From its inception, the WJJA was intended to serve the best
interests of children and to provide a path towards a
promising future for delinquent youth. In 1997, our
legislature expanded the purpose of the WJJA to provide for
the "protection of the public and public safety."
1997 Wyo. Sess. Laws Ch. ...