Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules on Retroactive Sex Offender Laws

This summer, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in Starkey v. Oklahoma Department of Corrections that sex offender risk level assessment could not be applied retroactively. Now, the state's highest court has ruled that those convicted of sex crimes out of state should have the same protection against retroactive application of revised sex offender laws as Oklahoma sex offenders. In the earlier decision, James M. Starkey sued the state after his sex offender registration period was extended as a result of the new passing of an offense-based risk level assessment. Starkey was convicted in Texas in 1997 of sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl. He was given a 10-year-deferred sentence and required to register as a sex offender. The following year, he moved to Oklahoma, where he was also required to register as a sex offender for 10 years. However, before his registration period expired, the rules of risk level assessment changed, requiring lifetime registration as a Level 3 sex offender for lewd acts with a minor. Suddenly, instead of having his name removed as a sex offender after completing his 10-year registration, Starkey was looking at lifetime registration. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in June 2013 that it was unconstitutional to retroactively apply the punitive sex offender registration requirement. Read more about the case on our blog post that followed the decision. Now the state Supreme Court has ruled again on the unconstitutionality of the retroactive application of amended sex offender registration requirements as they apply to those convicted of sex crimes in other states who move to Oklahoma. According to the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), those convicted of sex offenses in the state prior to 1989 were not subject to the Act or to register as sex offenders, as the state Sex Offender Registry did not exist at the time of their conviction. However, those individuals convicted in other states were denied the same protection against the retroactive application of the registry. If a person was convicted of a sex crime in another state prior to 1989 and subsequently moved to Oklahoma, he or she was still required to register, even though his or her offense occurred prior to the enactment of SORA and the existence of the state sex offender registry. The rulings came in the cases of Bollin v. Jones (formerly with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections) and Hendricks v. Jones. Michael Bollin was convicted of a sex offense in Missouri in 1987. He was ordered to serve five years in prison. He moved to Oklahoma in 2004, and was notified by the DOC in 2010 that he was required to register as a sex offender. He denied that he was subject to SORA, because the act did not exist at the time of his conviction and thus could not be applied retroactively. Joseph W. Hendricks was convicted in California in 1982 of the Oklahoma equivalent of lewd acts with a minor. He moved to Oklahoma in 2009 and was informed that he was required to register as a sex offender. He registered, but disputed that he was subject to SORA and soon filed a Petition of Injunction to bar the DOC from requiring him to register as a sex offender pending the lawsuit. According to court documents, both Bollin and Hendricks alleged that the retroactive application of SORA "violated the ban on ex post facto laws, the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the United States Constitution, the Due Process Clauses of the United States and Oklahoma Constitutions, and denied [them] equal protection of the law." In both cases, the Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed.

Comments