Tulsa Attorney BlogCriminal Court Sides With Civil Court on Oklahoma Sex Offender Registration – Sort Of

Similar Decisions for Different Reasons

Oklahoma sex offender registration attorneyThe Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has weighed in with a decision on retroactive aspects of Oklahoma’s sex offender registration laws. The court in effect reached the same conclusion as a landmark decision the Oklahoma Supreme Court returned in 2013, but reached the conclusion for substantially different reasons.

In State v. Hurt 2014 OK CR 17, the criminal appeals court upheld a Tulsa District Court’s decision that said changes to Oklahoma Sex Offenders Registration Act passed in 2004 and 2007 could not be enforced retroactively. The criminal appeals court said the legislature did not intend the new laws to apply retroactively.

The State had appealed the Tulsa court’s decision. Prosecutors sought retroactive enforcement of new laws to require a sex offender convicted in 1994 to continue registration beyond the 10-year period required at that time.

Previously, in Starkey v. Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections, 2013 OK 43, the Oklahoma Supreme Court likewise concluded some parts of extended sex offender registration laws Oklahoma passed in 2004 could not be applied retroactively.

The state Supreme Court, however, in Starkey said the legislature intended the 2004 amendments to apply retroactively, then struck down retroactive enforcement as an unconstitutional ex post facto law.

Oklahoma’s Bifurcated Court System

Whether the Court of Criminal Appeals’ December 2014 decision settles questions surrounding who is subject to what version of the Oklahoma sex offender registry laws remains to be seen. Outcomes could potentially be different depending on whether cases wind through civil or criminal courts.

For those unfamiliar with Oklahoma’s bifurcated court system, you need to know the state Supreme Court is the highest civil court and the Court of Criminal Appeals is the top criminal court. On occasion, the two co-equal courts reach seemingly contradictory conclusions – most recently in a death penalty case where two courts briefly wrestled over a condemned man’s execution date.

Sex offender registration cases recently landed in the state Supreme Court after individuals sued the Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections over notices instructing them to register as sex offenders. The Court of Criminal Appeals on the other hand got involved in a case where a previously convicted sex offender was prosecuted for failure to register.

In the December 2014 case, the criminal appeals court alluded to the civil court’s 2013 finding that sex offender registry requirements can be correctly applied if they were in effect when a person was convicted in Oklahoma or when someone convicted elsewhere moved to Oklahoma.

“We agree with this general rule,” the criminal appeals court stated.

Criminal Court Avoided Ex Post Facto Ruling

By deciding the legislature did not intended amendments of 2004 and 2007 to apply retroactively, the court avoided returning a decision on whether the laws were permissible under ex post facto doctrines. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, said they were intended to be retroactive, and that violated ex post facto doctrines.

At least with regard to civil proceedings, other recent Oklahoma Supreme Court decisions concluded a person convicted elsewhere could not be held to greater registration requirements than those convicted within the state.

In Hendricks v Jones, 2013 OK 71 the state Supreme Court said someone who moved to Oklahoma in 2009, after the law was changed, and convicted elsewhere prior to a Nov. 1, 1989 could not be held to revised registration laws unless they were “currently serving a sentence or any form of probation and parole” on Nov. 1, 2005. That was when a new law set out the 1989 and 2005 thresholds.

Dept. of Corrections officials had maintained the “currently serving” requirement only applied to those convicted prior to 1989 in Oklahoma. They tried to force those from out of state with older convictions to register as sex offenders. The Hendricks case involved a California conviction 26 years before the sex offender registration case landed in Oklahoma courts.

In Bollin v. Jones, 2013 OK 72, the Oklahoma Supreme Court determined that those who moved to Oklahoma before the 2004 or 2007 laws took effect could not be held to provisions regarding out of state residents enacted after they had moved to Oklahoma.

Free Consultation: Tulsa Sex Crimes Attorney

If you receive notice that you are required to register as a sex offender, or are charged with failing to register as a sex offender long after you were convicted and served your sentence, you need to know three things.

  1. Oklahoma penalties for failure to register can be severe.
  2. Oklahoma laws regarding who must register have changed several times in recent years.
  3. Oklahoma prosecutors and corrections officials have aggressively interpreted the laws.

To find out if you are required to register, talk with a Tulsa sex offender registration attorney about your status. For a free, confidential consultation about sex offender registration, call a Wirth Law Office Tulsa sex crimes lawyer at (918) 879-1681 or send your question using the form at the top of this page.

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