Oklahoma Sex Offender Registration Laws Challenged

Two defense sex crime attorneys in Oklahoma are challenging the constitutionality of the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registration Act on behalf of their clients, three registered sex offenders whose crimes were committed out of state prior to the enactment of the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry in 1989.  The attorneys told the Oklahoma Supreme Court that their clients should be removed from the state sex offender registry because the penalty of registration is being applied retroactively.  An attorney representing the state, however, cautioned the Court against overturning the rules, saying that citizens and their children deserve as much protection from potential sexual predators as possible.  However, according to their lawyers, the three men petitioning the Oklahoma Supreme Court have not reoffended since their initial convictions in 1982, 1987, and 1998. In 2010, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that sex offender registration laws could not be applied retroactively, and that those convicted of sex offenses should be punished according to the rules and laws in place at the time of their offense.  However, attorneys for the three men involved in this case assert that, although those convicted of sex crimes in Oklahoma receive the benefit of the appeals court's ruling, the sex offender registration laws are being unfairly applied to those whose crimes were committed out of state. The three men petitioning for removal from the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry include:

  • A man who was convicted in 1982 in California of lewd acts with a minor.  When he moved to Oklahoma in 2009, he was required to register as a sex offender, despite his conviction occurring seven years prior to the establishment of the state's sex offender registry.
  • A man who was convicted in of a sex offense in Missouri in 1987.  Despite his offense predating the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry by two years, he was required to register as a sex offender when he moved to Oklahoma in 2004.
  • A man who pleaded no contest to sexual assault of a minor in Texas in 1998 and received a deferred sentence.  When he moved to Oklahoma in later that year, he was required to register as a sex offender for ten years.  However, he remains on the list nearly five years after his registration was initially set to expire because laws have changed to lengthen the mandatory registration period.
Attorneys for the men argue that the laws are unconstitutional because they are being applied retroactively and because they single out a certain class of person, namely those convicted out-of-state. The Oklahoma Supreme Court is concerned with both the safety of the public and the constitutionality of the law in considering this case.  According to Vice Chief Justice John Reif of Skiatook, "This is an issue of statewide public concern.  We're struggling to find the best answer."

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