Session November 14, 2017
from the Chancery Court for Sullivan County No. 15-CV-18092
E.G. Moody, Chancellor
2001, Ronald Miller was convicted, in Maryland, of sexually
molesting his eleven-year-old niece. When he moved to
Tennessee in 2007, he registered with the sex offender
registry (SOR). The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
subsequently reclassified him several times. In 2013, the TBI
granted Miller's request to be removed from the SOR.
However, in 2014, the General Assembly amended Tenn. Code
Ann. § 40-39-207 (2014 & Supp.2017), to require
lifetime registration for an offender whose victim was twelve
years old or younger. The TBI reinstated Miller on the SOR
pursuant to this amendment. Miller appealed to the trial
court under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, Tenn.
Code Ann. § 4-5-322 (2015 & Supp.2017). The trial
court reversed the TBI's decision, holding that "TBI
is bound by the face of the [Maryland] conviction offense,
and since no provision of the offense involves a crime
against a child ages twelve (12) years or less, the
Petitioner does not have to comply with the lifetime registry
requirements." The Maryland statute at the time of the
offense provided that "a person may not engage in . . .
sexual contact with another without the consent of the
other." We hold that the TBI demonstrated that Miller
was convicted of this offense, and that his victim was eleven
years old at the time of the offense. Based on our review of
the record, we hold that the TBI's decision was neither
arbitrary nor capricious or unsupported by substantial and
material evidence. We reverse the trial court's judgment
and hold that Miller must be registered on the SOR for life.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Reversed; Case Remanded
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter,
Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General, and Brooke K.
Schiferle, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee,
for the appellant, Mark Gywn, Director of the Tennessee
Bureau of Investigation.
Roberts, Jr., Elizabethton, Tennessee, for the appellee,
Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the
court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., joined. Thomas R.
Frierson, II, J., not participating.
CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE
September of 2000, Miller was accused of sexually molesting
his niece in an incident that occurred in July of 1998.
According to the sworn application for statement of charges
filed in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, Miller lifted up her
shirt, sucked on her breasts, and inserted his finger in her
vagina. He told her not to tell anyone or he would hurt her.
He was indicted on four counts, the last of which was Fourth
Degree Sexual Offense. Miller entered an Alford
on this count, resulting in his conviction on March 20, 2001.
In July 1998, the victim was eleven years old.
moved to Tennessee in 2007 and registered with the SOR. He
was initially classified as a violent sexual offender, a
designation that would have required him to remain on the SOR
for life. On August 7, 2009, the TBI sent Miller a letter
stating, in pertinent part, as follows:
Your initial classification as a "violent" offender
occurred because your victim was eleven years old. In
Tennessee, the definition of a child is one under the age of
thirteen. An offense against a child is generally considered
"violent." However, based on research on old
Maryland laws and recent discussions with the State Attorney
General's office, it appears that the elements of your
crime indicate that the offense must occur against an older
minor, which takes your crime out of the "violent"
classification. In determining classification, we are bound
not by the actual age of the victim, but by the age of the
victim as defined in the elements of the crime (if age is
Since age is defined in your crime and it does not fit the
criteria of being under the age of thirteen, TBI will change
your classification to "sexual" and you will, at
the appropriate time, be eligible for removal from the
TBI's determination in this letter that "the
elements of your crime indicate that the offense must occur
against an older minor" was, as we will explain later in
this opinion, an erroneous interpretation of the Maryland
statute defining Fourth Degree Sexual Offense.
Miller applied for his removal from the SOR, which the TBI
granted on July 17, 2013. However, effective July 1, 2014,
the legislature amended Tenn. Code Ann. §
40-39-207(g)(1) to provide that:
An offender required to register under this part shall
continue to comply with the registration, verification and
tracking requirements for the life of that offender, if that
(C) Has been convicted of an offense in which the victim was
a child of twelve (12) years of age or less.
TBI, applying this new statutory section, notified Miller on
September 25, 2014, that it was reinstating him on the
He appealed this decision to the trial court under the
provisions of the TUAPA, Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-322. The
trial court reversed the TBI's decision, ruling as
follows in pertinent part:
In July of 1998, the victim was eleven (11) years old; she
was thirteen (13) years old at the time she gave her
statement to police and she was fourteen (14) years old when
the Petitioner was convicted.
The TBI incorrectly denied the Petitioner's request to be
removed from the registry.
Maryland's fourth degree sex offense only pertains to
victims who are fourteen (14) or fifteen (15) years of age.
Since there is no evidence to corroborate the victim's
statement that she was eleven (11) years old at time of the
offense, TBI cannot use the victim's statement to specify
under which provision that the Petitioner plead.
TBI is bound by the face of the conviction offense, and since
no provision of the offense involves a crime against a child
ages twelve (12) years or less, the Petitioner does not have