In 1981, 6-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted from a Sears department store in a Florida mall and murdered. In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of his kidnapping and murder, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.
This act is intended "to protect children from sexual exploitation and violent crime, to prevent child abuse and child pornography, to promote Internet safety, and to honor the memory of Adam Walsh and other child crime victims."
Most notably, the Adam Walsh Act contains the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act which establishes the Jacob Wetterling, Megan Nicole Kanka, and Pam Lychner Sex Offender Registration and Notification Program.
The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act describes three tiers of sex offenders. Federal law describes the sex offenses for assessment or each tier of sex offense, with Tier I offenses being considered the least severe and Tier III offenses being the most severe.
State law also stipulates the specific crimes for Oklahoma sex offender registration level assessment (read more about it here). While most people think that Level 3 offenders are those convicted of the most serious offenses and those most at risk of re-offending, looking at the list of offenses for each level seems to show some inconsistencies.
The Levels of Sex Offenders As Classified by the Law
Level 1 Sex Offenses
- Assault with Intent to Commit a Felony (21 O.S. 681) if the offense involves sexual assault
- Caretaker Abuse or Neglect (21 O.S. 843.1) when sexual abuse or sexual exploitation is involved; elevated to Level 3 if the crime involves oral, vaginal, or anal penetration
- Child Endangerment (21 O.S. 852.1) if the offense involved sexual abuse of a child; elevated to Level 3 if the crime involves oral, vaginal, or anal penetration
- Crime Against Nature/Sodomy (21 O.S. 886)
- Indecent Exposure/Indecent Exhibitions (21 O.S. 1021)
- Purchase, Procurement, or Possession of Child Pornography (21 O.S. 1024.2)
- Publication, Distribution, or Participation of Child Pornography (21 O.S. § 1040.8)
- Aggravated Possession of Child Pornography (21 O.S. 1040.12a)
- Importing or Distributing Obscene Material or Child Pornography (21 O.S. 1040.13)
Level 2 Offenses
- Obscene or Indecent Writings, Pictures, etc./Solicitation of minors in any crime under this section (21 O.S. 1021)
- To Procure or Cause Minors to Participate in Obscene or Indecent Writings, Pictures, etc. (21 O.S. 1021.2)
- Guardian-Parents-Custodians Consent to Participation of Minor in Obscene Writings, Pictures, etc. (21 O.S. 1021.3)
- Soliciting Sexual Conduct or Communication with a Minor by use of Technology (21 O.S. 1040.13a)
- Procuring a Child under 18 years of age for Prostitution, Lewdness, or Other Indecent Acts (21 O.S. 1087)
- Inducing, Keeping, Detaining, or Restraining for Prostitution a Child under 18 years of age (21 O.S. 1088)
Level 3 Offenses
- Child Abuse or Child Neglect (21 O.S. 843.5) when sexual abuse or sexual exploitation is involved
- Incest (21 O.S. 885)
- Forcible Sodomy (21 O.S. 888)
- First Degree Rape/Rape by Instrumentation (21 O.S. 1114)
- Lewd or Indecent Proposals or Acts to a Child Under 16/Sexual Battery to a Person Over 16 (21 O.S. 1123)
- Kidnapping (21 O.S. 741) if the offense involved sexual abuse or sexual exploitation
- Trafficking in Children (21 O.S. 865) if the offense involved sexual abuse or sexual exploitation
- Child Stealing (21 O.S. 891) if the offense involved sexual abuse or sexual exploitation
- Second Degree Rape (21 O.S. 1116)
- Second and Subsequent Sex Offense Conviction
Level 1 sex offenders are required to register for 15 years, providing annual address verification. Level 2 sex offenders are required to register for 25 years, providing address verification every six months. Level 3 sex offenders are required to register for life, providing address verification every three months.
The Law in Practice
Let us look briefly at some of the seemingly arbitrary and inappropriate sex offender registration level assessments. A person convicted of procuring a child under 18 for prostitution is a Level 2 sex offender who must register as such for 25 years. He or she must provide address verification twice a year.
Compare this person, who lured a child and is pimping him or her out, to some possible Level 3 sex offenders. A man gets drunk at a bar and slaps a woman's behind as she walks by (sexual battery). A 23-year-old first-year teacher has sex with his girlfriend, a 19-year-old woman who happens to be a high school senior at another school in the district in which he teaches. This would be classified as second degree rape (statutory rape).
In the above examples, the young teacher and the guy who made a foolish decision after a couple of beers with his buddies are considered Level 3 sex offenders, and they are required to register as Oklahoma Sex Offenders for the rest of their lives.
Sex Offender tiers or levels are meant to provide the most rigorous restrictions to the most serious offenders, and in some cases, they do. Violent, habitual offenders and those who prey on children should be considered to be dangerous risks. However, the level assignments do not always reflect the severity of the crime.
If you are charged with a sex crime, it is imperative that you seek strong legal counsel from an experienced defense attorney to protect you from reaping a punishment that exceeds the crime.