United States v. Kebodeaux

PETITIONER:United States
RESPONDENT:Anthony James Kebodeaux
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Western District of Texas

DOCKET NO.: 12-418
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 570 US (2013)
GRANTED: Jan 11, 2013
ARGUED: Apr 17, 2013
DECIDED: Jun 24, 2013

Michael R. Dreeben – Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the petitioner
M. Carolyn Fuentes – Assistant Federal Public Defender, for the respondent

Facts of the case

Anthony Kebodeaux was a registered sex offender. He served three years in prison in for his offense. After his release Congress enacted the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). When Kebodeaux moved from San Antonio, Texas to El Paso, Texas, he failed to update his residence in the registry within three days, as required, and was charged and convicted under SORNA. He appealed, arguing that the law was unconstitutional as it applied to him because regulating a sex offender’s intrastate travel after being released from custody exceeds Congress’ powers. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that past commission of a federal crime is insufficient to permit the federal government to have unending criminal authority over Kebodeaux. While SORNA was unconstitutional under the circumstances of this case, the court did not question Congress’ ability to place restrictions on federal prisoners after release, including requiring sex offenders convicted after SORNA to register intrastate changes of residence.


Did the court of appeals err in conducting its constitutional analysis on the premise that Kebodeaux was not under a federal registration obligation until SORNA was enacted, when pre SORNA federal law also obligated him to register as a sex offender?

Did the court of appeals erred in holding that Congress lacks the Article I authority to provide for criminal penalties as applied to a person who was convicted of a sex offense under federal law and completed his criminal sentence before SORNA was enacted?

Media for United States v. Kebodeaux

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 17, 2013 in United States v. Kebodeaux

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 24, 2013 in United States v. Kebodeaux

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Breyer has our opinion this morning in case 12-418 United State versus Kebodeaux.

Stephen G. Breyer:

In 1999 a Special Court Martial convicted Anthony Kebodeaux, who’s a member of the Air Force of a sex offense.

In 2006, after he served his sentence and had been discharged from the Air Force, Congress enacted a new law called SORNA to Registration Act, which requires those convicted of federal sex offenses to register in States where they live, work or study.

And subsequently, Kebodeaux failed to satisfy that law.

He didn’t register properly.

He was convicted of violating SORNA, but the Fifth Circuit held that the Constitution did not give Congress the power to apply SORNA to Kebodeaux.

In that circuit’s view, Kebodeaux, having completed his sentence and left the Air Force before the act was passed, was henceforth, no different no different from any other person in America, and Congress could not enact SORNA and apply to him simply because he once violated the Federal Law.

We do not agree with the Fifth Circuit’s conclusion.

At the time, Kebodeaux committed his crime, and well before he was released, he was subject to a different federal registration law namely, the Wetterling Act.

That act imposed civil registration requirements upon him that were really the same or virtually the same as those that the later-enacted SORNA applied.

So, Congress possessed adequate constitutional authority to pass Wetterling Act under Article I, military regulation and the broad necessary and proper clauses.

So, when Kebodeaux was released, he was not the same as every other American.

He was different from most other Americans, because he was subject to the requirements of the Wetterling Act and that difference in our view, means that at a minimum, that the same constitutional clauses that gave Congress the power to continue to subject Kebodeaux to the same requirements or basically the same, that were in SORNA.

We explain our reasons more fully in our opinion.

We reverse of this circuit’s judgment.

The Chief Justice and Justice Alito have each filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

Justice Scalia has filed the dissenting opinion and Justice Thomas has filed the dissenting opinion in which he is joined by Justice Scalia.