STATE v. MYCALL OBAS, SC 19290

Judicial District of Danbury

 

      Criminal; Whether § 54-251 Exemption From Sex Offender Registration Properly Granted Years After Defendant had Registered Pursuant to Plea Bargain with State.  The defendant pleaded guilty to second degree sexual assault for engaging in sexual intercourse with a fifteen year old girl when he was eighteen years old.  The trial court sentenced the defendant pursuant to the terms of a plea bargain to ten years of incarceration, execution suspended after nine months, followed by ten years of probation.  As a condition of probation, the defendant agreed to register as a sex offender under General Statutes § 54-251 for a period of ten years.  The defendant registered as a sex offender in 2004 when he was released from prison.  In 2011, the defendant filed a motion to modify the conditions of his probation by terminating the sex offender registry requirement.  The defendant submitted to a psychosexual evaluation, which concluded that he presented a low risk of reoffending, and probation status reports lauded his rehabilitation.  The trial court granted the motion under § 54-251 (b), which authorizes a court to exempt a person from the sex offender registration requirement upon finding that “such person was under nineteen years of age at the time of the offense and that registration is not required for public safety.”  The state appealed to the Appellate Court, claiming that the trial court had no authority under the statute to exempt the defendant from his registration obligation seven years after he was initially required to register.  The Appellate Court (147 Conn. App. 465) disagreed and affirmed the judgment granting the exemption, holding that the statute authorizes a trial court to exempt a defendant from the registration requirement after the obligation to register has begun where, as here, registration is made a condition of probation and the court finds that modification of the condition is justified by the defendant’s rehabilitation.  The Appellate Court also rejected the state’s claim that, under principles of contract law, the trial court improperly permitted modification of a condition of the defendant’s probation where the defendant specifically had agreed to abide by the condition as a part of a plea bargain and where he had already received the benefits of the bargain.  The Appellate Court noted that although the state and the defendant were bound by the terms of the plea bargain, the trial court was not a party to that agreement.  The Appellate Court further noted that the trial court was authorized by § 53a-30 to modify the conditions of probation, regardless of whether the court originally imposed them, and that plea bargain agreements did not divest courts of their statutory authority to modify the conditions of probation.  The Supreme Court granted the state’s petition for certification to appeal and will decide whether the Appellate Court improperly found that the exemption for registration as a sex offender under § 54-251 could be granted, over the state’s objection, where the defendant had registered for seven years but had agreed to register for ten years as a part of a plea agreement entered into with the state and accepted by the trial court.