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Defense win! Multiple convictions in same case on same date don’t require lifetime sex offender registration

State v. Corey T. Rector, 2023 WI 41, 5/23/23 affirming a case certified by the court of appeals, 2020AP1213; case activity (including briefs)

Rector pleaded to five counts of possessing child pornography in a single case. He’d never been convicted of anything before. The sentencing judge ordered that he be placed on the sex offender registry until 15 years after the end of his sentence or supervision. The Department of Corrections then wrote the judge to say that, in its view, any two or more convictions of registry-eligible sex offenses trigger mandatory registration for life. The judge stuck to his guns and reiterated the 15-year registry requirement. The state appealed, and the court of appeals certified the case. The state supreme court now holds, 4-3, that Rector is not required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

As we said in our posts on the court of appeals’ certification and SCOW’s grant of review, the question is what’s meant by Wis. Stat. § 301.45(5)(b)1., which mandates lifetime registration for a person who’s been convicted of a qualifying sex offense “on 2 or more separate occasions.” Rector urged as a matter of plain English that it could not refer to multiple convictions entered at the same time in the same case.

The state’s counterargument relied principally on State v. Wittrock, 119 Wis. 2d 664, 350 N.W.2d 647 (1984), and State v. Hopkins, 168 Wis. 2d 802, 484 N.W.2d 549 (1992), which construed a virtually identical phrase in the misdemeanor repeater statute to encompass convictions entered at the same time. The state noted that these cases came before the legislature amended the registry statute to include the same phrase, and so argued it must have meant to incorporate the holdings of Wittrock and Hopkins.

A bare majority of the Justices agree with Rector. Justice Karofsky writes for herself and Justices A.W. Bradley, Dallet and Hagedorn. The majority opinion briefly concludes that the plain meaning of “separate occasions” does not include events that occur at the same time. It goes on to hold that Wittrock and Hopkins do not shed much light on the meaning of § 301.45(5)(b)1., as they concerned a not-terribly-closely related statute (§ 939.62(2)) and depended heavily on that statute’s legislative history.

The dissent, written by Justice R.G. Bradley and joined by Ziegler and Roggensack, argues that Wittrock and Hopkins made “separate occasions” a term of art, and that the prior construction canon of statutory interpretation means the court ought to read the phrase the same way across the statutes. The majority rejects that view, noting that the misdemeanor statute and the lifetime registry statute concern very different subjects and adding:

Even in its strongest form, the prior-construction canon merely creates a presumption that the legislature intended to incorporate the court’s prior interpretation of a word or phrase in closely related statutes. But that presumption is not meant to counteract our oft-quoted principle that “statutory language is given its common, ordinary, and accepted meaning” and “if the meaning of the statute is plain, we ordinarily stop the inquiry.” See State ex rel. Kalal v. Cir. Ct. for Dane Cnty., 2004 WI 58, ¶45, 271 Wis. 2d 633, 681 N.W.2d 110.  The presumption is meant to add clarity, not sow confusion. In other words, fundamentally, we must presume that the legislature means what it says. See Heritage Farms, Inc. v. Markel Ins. Co., 2009 WI 27. ¶14 n.9, 316 Wis. 2d 47, 767 N.W.2d 652.

(¶40). The majority also responds strongly to the dissent’s accusation that its decision “trivializes heinous crimes against children”:

There is no disagreement in this case that Rector’ crimes were serious. The statutory language of Wis. Stat. § 301.45(5)(b)1., however, does not hinge on whether this court concludes that Rector’s crimes were serious. It is undisputable that all sex offenses covered by the sex offender registration statutory scheme are heinous in nature, thus necessitating the use of the registry for the protection of the public. However, within that scheme, the legislature, not this court, made policy decisions regarding which offenders are categorically required to comply with registration requirements for life and which are required to comply for 15 years. Our job is to faithfully interpret the words of the statute in order to discern the legislature’s policy choice, not to impose our own policy choices.


It remains to be seen how the Department of Corrections will go about identifying the people who, under this decision, are no longer mandatory lifetime registrants. Watch this space for updates.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Jorge Fragoso May 30, 2023, 11:25 am

    The final comment of this post states that it “remains to be seen how the Department of Corrections will go about identifying the people who, under this decision, are no longer mandatory lifetime registrants.”

    Is anyone working on changing their client’s status with the DOC in response to this decision? My client was convicted of two sex offenses from the same incident. The DOC has interpreted these two offenses as separate occasions. Because of that, they have designated him as an SBN, Special Bulletin Notification. This designation significantly curtails his permissions and his freedom. I’m going to challenge this designation, but I’d love to talk to anyone who is also working on this or has done it in the past. If someone sees this comment in the future, please feel free to reach out.

  • James Brown June 4, 2023, 12:55 pm

    Yes Jorge, are you a lawyer? I’m in the same boat as your client, except I no longer live in Wisconsin, after having just recently moved to Massachusetts. So I’m exempt from gps monitoring, SBN, and even public listing since my new state considers my one time offense low risk. However, I still have lifetime status which can affect me in other ways such as not qualifying for subsidized disability housing. Wisconsin DOC’s legal team is looking into whether or not my status has changed because of the decision. If they find it hasn’t, I’m definitely going to challenge them.

  • William June 7, 2023, 10:47 pm

    Jorge Fragoso, I was on the original lawsuit with the state. I have already contacted the registry and what I got back is they are looking into it. Wow really. You gave me one week to get the bracelet on or go to prison?!?! And you charged me thousands of dollars to be monitored. I have had 19 units on my leg in 4.5 years. At over $1k for each unit. Tax payers have spent $20k on equipment to monitor me!!! Lol!!!! Ridiculous!!!

  • Anon June 14, 2023, 4:34 pm

    I was waiting on this decision, I got a notification i the mail saying b/c of this stupid opinion by then attorney general brad schimmel, I was changed to life. Let’s see if they want to reverse this, because knowing them, they will fight this shit tooth and nail b/c it’s nothing but a money ploy. There is no justice with the DOC, it’s how can we scrape and deprive the lowest on the totem pole of any semblance of dignity and money. Can’t wait to file a lawsuit if they don’t overturn my life-time status that was retroactively applied.

  • Lisa S June 25, 2023, 9:21 pm

    My son is in the exact same boat as Corey Rector was. We want to fight this tooth and nail for him as well. Reinterpretation of the law by one man is not justice. Each case should be evaluated on an individual basis. Someone needs to band us together to get this changed once and for all. Any lawyers willing to take this on? Atty. Hinkle I have reached out privately as well.

  • grayle strothman June 27, 2023, 1:03 am

    I was charged in 2006 with three different counts but I only have one case I did four years on the street without a bracelet and then the law changed because of the wording and I became SBN and have a bracelet for life does this mean that I may get my bracelet off now if I only have one case

  • Jessica July 10, 2023, 3:49 pm

    So how does this work? I wonder if now I can get off life time as I was convicted in 2006 with one count and placed on lifetime registration. It would so help me out to change my legal name as I’m intersex ” transgender”.

  • Lisa sparks July 28, 2023, 10:33 am

    The DOC was quick to put everyone on this ankle bracelet but going on 3/4 months later nothing. 2 accounts 1 case nothing else on my record and still waiting! Please if there is a law suit against this state please let me know. Otherwise I’m already in talks and 4 different attorneys told me, we would love to take this on. I will keep everyone informed as I proceed with what’s the best fit attorneys for this case unless the state starts to take these bracelets off I will be actively getting justice for 1 case people Good luck everyone and please no more getting in trouble we only have one life and life inside is not a WAY……..

  • Jon August 3, 2023, 9:42 am

    I just got off of the phone with my rep at the DOC and she had told me they are beginning to review all of the cases to see who this affects and who it doesn’t. They had to wait to see if the DOC would appeal the Rector decision, which they are not. They are starting with the people who are currently off of probation, then working towards more recent cases. She was unable to give me a time frame but told me they are working quickly to get it taken care of.

  • Sean August 7, 2023, 1:57 pm

    Fyi. I am one of these people who were required to be on lifetime GPS and SBN because of multiple COUNTS in the same case. I received a call this morning from the DOC (I am no longer even on probation) that they WILL be removing bracelets on the individuals who were required to wear them for life under the “multiple offense” in same case convictions…. They are removing my bracelet this week

  • Tim in WI August 15, 2023, 3:10 pm

    I’m thinking a private investigator could be hired to connect Shimel to the firms that act as vendor of bracelets. These are private enterprises being allowed to be inserted into the people’s duty to protect themselves. They are hired men and not public servants. They literally play the role of Mr. Schindler, where as he used ( fictionally) the slave labor to produce profit. We see it in private prisons, bracelets, SOR databases and we see it in our war machine. States have been using private lawyers to fight their battles too. That too is a duty that belongs to the people, and not to private contractors. IMO, America devolves into neofascism by these conflicts of interests. Like anything else, ya gotta follow the money. I remind folks in summation, the Federal Byrne Grant folks insisted on a threat of withholding a percentage of funding for non compliant States. ( OMNIBUS94: Crime and Control Act) That kind of financial coercion isn’t necessary if the regime is constitutional and sound.

  • Tim D. August 16, 2023, 8:24 pm

    Any further updates? I received a letter from WIDOC saying I am no longer SBN. I was out of confinement and not on supervision when they applied the bracelet and said I was wearing it for life. One case, one day, multiple counts. I emailed my SORP and all they said was they are working on case reviews.

  • Jim August 18, 2023, 1:48 pm

    I am currently waiting for my call. They were quick to put me on this when I got out and take me off or work release in prison. Now wait for this wait for that. Law suit is looking really good right now..

  • Tim August 18, 2023, 10:58 pm

    Anyone have updates? I’m in the same boat.. bracelet retroactively applied after confinement amen I was not on parole or supervision. I received a letter stating I was no longer SBN but now I’m told they are reviewing cases when I asked about bracelet removal.

  • Anonymous August 24, 2023, 4:13 pm

    Got a letter today saying I was reviewed and turned my lifetime back into the 15 year. Words cannot express the absolute joy and happiness this has brought into my life. I’ve been depressed and suicidal over a 5 minute mistake I made 20 years ago as a teenager for years since scumbag schimel decided to retroactively punish myself and thousands of others.

  • Mike August 26, 2023, 3:12 pm

    I am an out of state ex-con no parole but was a year from finishing registry requirements when told I was a lifetime member. On the 17th of August I received an info notice stating I was off the registry as of Oct 20, 2020. The letter was worded like the SOR folks did nothing wrong and as if I had asked for the info and was never on for life.

  • Anon August 30, 2023, 4:35 pm

    Do anyone have info on who I should contact in regards to reviewing my lifetime GPS and registration? I am still currently on supervision but am in the same spot as a lot of other commenters. 1 case, multiple counts on the same day. Any info would be greatly appreciated

  • anon September 13, 2023, 10:12 am

    Did they take this back?

    According to family member’s po this is no longer happening?

    Can anyone confirm?

  • Anon September 14, 2023, 5:37 pm

    No they are not taking it back. They can not take it back only thing they can do is appeal it. They are not going to appeal. If they did they would lose again. Your family members p.o is not telling him or her the truth or family matter is lieing. I talked to my p.o Sept 6 and she told me they are releasing people in my area. My p.o told me late Oct or late November.

  • Alex September 15, 2023, 4:29 pm


    Probation and parole agents have no clue what’s going on, until they are told what to do in regarding to clients on their caseload. Nor can they do anything until madison tells them otherwise.

    The people to contact is the wisconsin sex offender registry. You can find the number on their website.

    It is stated that there are currently over 30,000 registered sex offenders in wisconsin. They are going over each case one by one to determine changes. Yes they are starting with the people not currently on supervision. After that they will work on the people that are on probation or parole.

    To get answers and to apply the pressure in the appropriate avenue lawyers and family members and people on supervision have to contact SORP in madison

  • Anon September 16, 2023, 9:46 pm

    It’s definitely still happening. Just spoke with my agent last week and she confirmed it with me and said I just have to be patient until they review my case.

  • anon September 17, 2023, 11:07 pm

    thanks for all the quick responses

  • Troy September 21, 2023, 6:32 pm

    My agent says they hear there is progress but only with the folks who were already off supervision or probation. My case is identical to Mr. Rector. I look myself and him up weekly in the registry and nothing changes. My agent also said the DOC can and will say they are “provisionally” keeping the GPS units on…as if I have suddenly become more of a risk. This use of creative wording screams for a lawsuit. Not to mention no due process as noted in a previous lawsuit. Also, how will we all get our money back for the time we have paid? That seems like a good class action thing, all for one, one for all. Finally, the SBN designation means notification publicly, often door to door for everyone within a certain range of my house. I was never supposed to have that…wondering if defamation or degradation of character (stating I’m more risky that actually am) could be legal grounds for a suit? I’ve tried to have a good attitude but all of this is a vast over reach of authority. I love the constitution, the law, and feel the State is a wonderful place to live, be employed, etc. But the State needs to learn it cannot overstep authority without a cost.

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