Monday, May 24, 2010

Two Means of Committing a Single Offense

Robert Alan Young was charged with failing to comply with Texas's Sex Offender Registration requirements (see chap. 62 of Tex. Code Crim. Proc.) by failing to report his change of address either 7 days before his intended move or 7 days after his move was completed.  By so charging, the State was able to gain a conviction so long as the jury could agree that either of the 2 theories was established beyond a reasonable doubt.  After his conviction, Young argued on appeal that by charging the offense in the disjunctive, the State violated his right to a unanimous jury verdict. (I tend to agree.)

Think about.  What if half of the jurors believed that Young violated with the registration requirements by failing to report his change of address 7 days prior to his move, while the other half disagreed and believed that, rather, he failed to report his move within 7 days after it was effected?  It seems we would not have a uniamous verdict under either theory.  Oh, but that is not how it works (says the 3rd District Court of Appeals - Austin).

In Young v. State, the Court explained:
The single offense described by both article 62.055 and by the jury charge is the offense of failing to report a change of address.  This offense can be violated by failing to report the change in advance, aftewards, or both.  Those variations are evidentiary, not separate and dstinct elements of an offense.  Here, the statutory verb defining the criminal act is "report."  Thus, in this case, it is the act of reporting - or the failure to do so - upon which all jurors must agree.