Saturday, November 23, 2019

Case o' The Week: A BEAutiful Appellate Waiver Case - Dailey and SORNA Registration Requirements

Give thanks, for the Ninth's limitations on appellate waivers.

United States v. Dailey, 2019 WL 5688814 (9th Cir. Nov. 4, 2019), decision available here.

Players: Decision by Judge Bea, joined by Judges Gould and Friedland.  

Facts: Jazzmin Dailey was charged with the prostitution of a minor in Las Vegas. Id. at *1. She charge-bargained to violating the “Travel Act,” which criminalizes travelling in interstate commerce with the intent to commit unlawful activity (including non-sexual criminal activity). Id. at *2; see also 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a)(3).
   Her plea agreement contained an appellate waiver.
  In an admirable decision, Chief District Judge Gloria Navarro varied downwards and sentenced Dailey to no imprisonment and three years of probation. Id. at *3.   The sentence included a provision that Dailey had to comply with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) as directed. Id. at *3. 
  Dailey was required to register as a sex offender in her state of residence, Arizona. Id.

Issue(s): “On appeal, Dailey makes three arguments challenging the legality of the condition requiring her to register as a sex offender. First, she argues the district court imposed an illegal sentence by requiring her to register as a sex offender because she was not convicted of a ‘sex offense.’ Next, she argues the district court did not provide her adequate pre-sentencing notice that she would be required to register as a sex offender under SORNA. And finally, she argues the district court delegated the Article III power to impose a criminal sentence by leaving the determination whether Dailey would be required to register as a sex offender to the probation office or state officials.” Id. at *1.

Held: “[W]e reject all three arguments, conclude that the sentence was legally imposed, and dismiss the appeal based on the enforceable appellate waiver in Dailey’s plea agreement.” Id.

Of Note: The core issue of Dailey is whether the residual clause in SORNA is subject to the categorical approach, (on the issue of whether an element of the statute of conviction required that the victim was a minor). Id. at *6-*7. Judge Bea concludes it is not: “the statutory text and structure are clear.” Id.
  The Ninth joins the 4th, 5th, and 8th Circuits and holds that a non-categorical approach to the SORNA registration requirements is appropriate. Id. at *7.
  This is bad news for our clients – the non-categorical approach cast a much broader net, and will ensnare defendants like Dailey in the SORNA registration requirements.

How to Use: There’s lots of words, in Dailey, for a case that ultimately upholds an appellate waiver. Judge Bea explains that the familiar Bibler exceptions to appellate waivers includes an unlawful sentence – and that unlawful probation conditions fall within this exception. Id. at *3 (citing United States v. Watson, 583 F.3d 974, 987 (9th Cir. 2009)). Judge Bea then works through each of the challenges to the registration requirement, to consider whether it was lawful. Because the terms of probation were finally concluded to be lawful, the Ninth ultimately enforces the appellate waiver.
  From the defense perspective, this appellate waiver turns out to be a de minimis barrier to full Ninth review of the legality of the conditions of probation (and the same theory applies to supervised release!)
  Consider Dailey when conditions of probation or supervised release get your goat, but there’s an appellate waiver in the plea agreement. If your Ninth challenge goes to the legality of the supervision conditions, an appellate waiver in a plea agreement is essentially a meaningless term: appeal away. If the probation (or supervised release) conditions are unlawful, the plea agreement’s appellate waiver is unenforceable: our clients win. If the conditions are lawful, the waiver is enforced – but our client has had full appellate review of their legality.
For Further Reading: Two more of President Trump’s Ninth nominees, Mr. Lawrence VanDyke and Mr. Patrick Bumatay, cleared another Senate hurdle last week. See article here.  

Image of turkey urging waiver from

Steven Kalar, Federal Public Defender N.D. Cal. Website at


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