For most people, the term "registered sex offender" conjures images of violent rapists, sexual predators, and pedophiles. While certainly there are aggravated sex offenders who fit these descriptions, Oklahoma sex crimes defense attorneys know that there are countless others who are forced to register for much less nefarious acts. In fact, some Oklahoma registered sex offenders are on the list for youthful mistakes and others are on the list who have never even had physical sexual contact with a child. Until recently, it was even possible for a person to be required to register as a sex offender after public urination if he or she was convicted of indecent exposure rather than public indecency. Regardless of being charged and convicted for a much lesser offense than aggravated rape or child molestation, mandatory sex offender registration saddles these people with many of the same restrictions and stigma as those convicted of violent sex crimes. Media reports and online sex offender support networks tell the stories of people who seem to have been unfairly trapped by Oklahoma sex offender registration requirements:
- CNN tells of Ricky Blackman, a young man convicted of a sex offense when he was only 16. Blackman admitted to having sex with a girl he thought was 15, only to find out she was actually 13. He was convicted in Iowa, and his record was eventually expunged. Seeking to make a fresh start, Blackman and his family moved to Oklahoma, where he was forced to register as a sex offender despite the offense being expunged in his home state.
- The Tulsa World writer Leigh Woosley writes of Kim, a 37 year old former prostitute who was required to register as a sex offender after she was convicted of indecent exposure in Oklahoma. Her crime? Flashing her bare breasts to an undercover police officer. She failed to register as a sex offender upon her release from jail and spent an additional two years behind bars for failure to register. Though Kim admits that her jail sentence was probably deserved, particularly in light of a significant criminal history, she says that being lumped in with pedophiles and rapists seems unfair.
- A man posting on the Sex Offender Solutions and Education Network (SOSEN) website feels that his 18-year-old grandson, Coty Marrs, was unfairly prosecuted. According to the elder Marrs, Coty got drunk at a party and went in a bedroom to sleep it off. A 14-year-old girl came in and allegedly initiated a consensual sexual encounter. According to his grandfather, what Coty did was "dumb" and "irresponsible," but the justice system failed him. Sam Marrs says that Coty was denied his right to an Oklahoma sex crime defense lawyer during police investigation, and that when his case went to trial, he had ineffective counsel. According to Mr. Marrs, Coty must register as a Tier 3 Violent Sex Offender, even though the girl admitted the act was consensual and neither she nor her mother wanted to press charges.
The restrictions placed on registered sex offenders in Oklahoma are often more difficult for the offenders than their prison or jail sentences. These people must continue to pay for their crimes through housing restrictions, employment restrictions, and the social stigma that comes with being branded as a sex offender. It is critical that anyone charged with a sex offense--even something as minor as indecent exposure--get swift legal representation from an experienced defense attorney to protect against false accusations, inflated charges, maximum sentencing, and the violation of one's civil and constitutional rights.