Offenders must report job change

By DALE WETZEL, Associated Press Writer

North Dakota law requires sex offenders to inform police if they get
another job, even if they haven’t changed homes, the state Supreme Court
ruled.

The court’s decision revived a felony case against Michael Darnell
Jackson, who did not tell Fargo police he had worked at a coin laundry
for five months last year. Jackson was unaware he was supposed to tell
authorities when he changed jobs, his lawyer said.

Jackson was required to register as a sex offender because of a 1996
conviction in Norman County, Minn., a border county north of Fargo.

He was charged with a felony, which carried a possible five-year prison
term, because he was convicted in a separate case four years ago of
failing to register, court records show.

East Central District Judge Frank Racek, who heard Jackson’s case in
February, ruled state law did not require Jackson to tell authorities
when he changed jobs, unless he had also moved to another residence.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion on Monday reversed that ruling.”The
more reasonable interpretation of this language, which effectuates the
purpose of the statute to keep law enforcement informed of the
whereabouts of sex offenders, is that either a change in residence
address, or a change in employment address, triggers the statutory
requirement (that) the offender must notify law enforcement of the
change,” says the Supreme Court’s opinion, written by Justice Carol
Ronning Kapsner.

Court documents say Jackson registered as a sex offender with the Fargo
Police Department on Jan. 12, 2004. He took a job at a coin laundry a
week later, and worked there for five months.

When Jackson moved to another Fargo address in June 2004, he informed
police of his new address and phone number, and listed his employer as a
Fargo concrete company.

On his registration, Jackson said he had not had a job since January
2004, according to Aaron Birst, an assistant Cass County state’s
attorney. A Fargo police officer found Jackson had worked at the laundry
while investigating another matter.

“The employment address is given so officers can locate the offender if
the offender is not at his residence or at school,” Birst wrote in a
Supreme Court filing. “If the offender does not have to keep a current
employment address, it removes another contact point for law enforcement
to keep track of the offender.”

Jackson’s attorney, Monty Mertz of Fargo, said the law was not explicit
in saying sex offenders had to report all job changes.

“When a registered offender has not changed his residence or his phone
number, whether he works or where he works is not essential to ‘keeping
track’ of him,” Mertz wrote in a court brief. Offenders who do day labor
for various businesses, Mertz
wrote, might have “to register every day, when he is sent to a new work
site.”

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