The Danger in New Mexico's Method of Deciding Whether an Out-of-State Conviction is a Registrable Sex Offense
Plea offers present criminal defendants with the option of acquiescing to specific punitive or rehabilitative measures rather than allowing judges and juries to determine those measures at trial. Defendants often accept plea offers over going to trial because a plea agreement provides the comfort of knowing what consequences to expect. However, in cases involving sexual misconduct, it is more difficult to anticipate the consequences of plea agreements. All fifty states maintain sex-offender registries with varying criteria for when a resident must register. In 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court decided State v. Hall and held that it may be necessary for courts to examine the facts supporting residents’ out-of-state convictions when deciding whether New Mexico law requires those residents to register as sex offenders. The decision in Hall makes it possible for New Mexico to require new residents to register as sex offenders even when they did not know that their pleas could have had such consequences. This Note argues that New Mexico courts should not engage in a fact-specific inquiry when deciding whether an out-of-state conviction is a registrable sex offense because doing so offends an interest in protecting the voluntariness of defendants’ pleas. Instead, this Note suggests that courts should defer to other states’ decisions as to whether a particular crime was a registrable sex offense.