On October 26, 2007, following a jury trial, Dean Craig Spears was found guilty of
one count of second degree sexual assault. As a result of his conviction, Mr. Spears was
required to register as a sex offender with the West Virginia State Police, pursuant to W. Va.
Code § 15-12-2 (2006) (Repl. Vol. 2009). (See footnote 1) Mr. Spears reported to the Princeton, Mercer County, West Virginia, detachment of the State Police on January 11, 2008, for the purpose of registering as a sex offender. During the course of his registration interview, Mr. Spears was asked by the interviewing state trooper whether he owned any motor vehicles. Mr. Spears accurately responded that he did not own any motor vehicles. Mr. Spears was not asked, on this occasion, whether he had access to any motor vehicles. On other occasions, including January 15, 2008, when he was interviewed by a Mercer County Probation Officer, Mr. Spears was asked whether he had access to any motor vehicles and he responded that he did have such access. Likewise, when interviewed a second time by the West Virginia State Police for sex offender registration purposes, Mr. Spears was asked whether he had access to any motor vehicles and he provided all requested information pertaining to a vehicle to which he had access. This disclosure lead to his indictment for failure to provide notice of changes in sex offender registration.
Following a bench trial, the circuit court of Mercer County concluded that Mr. Spears
had not been properly questioned during his sex offender registration process, and observed,
in essence, that he had not concealed his access to a motor vehicle, as demonstrated by his
disclosure of the same upon questioning by others, including his probation officer.
Nevertheless, the circuit court found Mr. Spears guilty and sentenced him to an
indeterminate term of not less than one nor more than five years, to run concurrently with
his sentence for second degree sexual assault. On appeal, the State observes that it is undisputed that when Mr. Spears initially registered as a sex offender, he was asked only whether he owned a motor vehicle, and that there was not one shred of evidence [presented during the bench trial] that the Appellant's failure to provide information about the vehicle he used, but did not own, was a knowing act or omission; further, there was not one shred of evidence from which this element of the offense could be inferred. Accordingly, the State concedes that there was insufficient evidence at trial to establish that Mr. Spears' knowingly failed to provide information about a vehicle to which he had access, as required by W. Va. Code § 15-12-8. Upon our thorough review of this case, we agree. (See footnote 2) Although the State incorrectly argues that no statute expressly requires a sex offender registrant to provide information pertaining to motor vehicles, we nevertheless agree that the evidence presented in this action was insufficient to establish that Mr. Spears knowingly failed to provide the information required by W. Va. Code § 15-12-2.
For the reasons stated above, we hereby find the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to establish a necessary element of the offense of failure to provide notice of changes in sex offender registration by unlawfully, knowingly, and feloniously failing to provide information. Therefore, we reverse Mr. Spears conviction and sentence, and remand this case to the Circuit Court of Mercer County with directions to dismiss, with prejudice, the indictment.