Tulsa Attorney BlogCourt Blocks Retroactive Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry Rule

oklahoma sex offender registryWith an eye toward removing potentially hundreds of names from the Oklahoma sex offender registry, the state Dept. of Corrections is reviewing details of more than 7,700 listed sex offenders. The review follows a June 25 state Supreme Court decision that found retroactive application of revised sex-offender registration rules violated a state constitutional provision against ex post facto laws.

The decision was in response to the Department of Correction’s appeal of a trial court’s summary judgment in the case of James M. Starkey, Sr., a Texas man charged with sexual assault of a 15 year old girl. The trial court had sided with Starkey, blocking the DOC from extending the time he was required to report personal details to the public sex offender registry. The Supreme Court did not agree with the DOC’s arguments that it should impose registration requirements that were not in place when Starkey entered a plea agreement.

Starkey moved to Oklahoma in 1998 after entering a deferred sentencing agreement in a Texas court. When he arrived in Oklahoma, he complied with requirements that he submit personal details to the state’s sex offender registry.

Under Oklahoma law at that time, Starkey was required to register as a sex for a period of 10 years. The legislature then began to revise the sex-offender registration law, extending the length of time a person must remain on the list, linking classification on the list with the type of sex offense for which a person was convicted, and requiring those entered deferred sentencing agreements to register.

After a 2007 amendment to the law, the DOC reclassified Starkey as a level 3 sex offender. The classification meant that he would be required to remain on the list for the rest of his life. He would also have to update his listing every three months by appearing in person at a police station or DOC office, avoid living within 2,000 feet of a school, park or day care facility and must comply with numerous other sex offender registry requirements.

In a 6-2 decision, the court considered whether the legislature intended for various amendments to the sex-offender registration law to apply retroactively. In as much as the legislature intended the changes to be retroactive, the court then considered whether the new rules were civil and regulatory measures that would violate state provisions against ex post facto laws. The court concluded that several aspects of the offender registry law are instead criminal and punitive in their nature, and may not be enforced against offenders convicted before the amendments were adopted.

Aspects of the sex-offender registration law that “advance a non-punitive purpose of public safety” don’t outweigh provisions that impose historically punitive burdens on those who must register, the court concluded. The court said punitive aspects of the law:

  • impose restrictions on where registered offenders may live, and with whom,
  • revisit a person’s past crimes rather than imposes restrictions based on current risk assessments,
  • shame registered offenders by including the terms “sex offender” on drivers licenses, and
  • banish registered offenders from homes where they previously resided if a school or park is established nearby.

The court did not rule on the underlying constitutionality of the sex offender registry, which it found to be “a valid tool for the state to use for public safety.” The court further alluded to offender registration as a lawful form of punishment – but only for those offenders convicted after the laws were put in place.

Dept. of Corrections officials have estimated hundreds of names may be removed from the Oklahoma sex offender registry as a result of the Supreme Court opinion. Defense attorneys have suggested the number may reach into the thousands. Corrections officials estimate it may take a month or longer to complete a review of each name on the registry.

Free Consultation: Tulsa Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you have any concerns about the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry or need more information about how the the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s opinion in Starkey v. Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections 2013 OK 43 might affect you, call Wirth Law Office’s Tulsa criminal defense attorneys (918) 932-2800. Our criminal defense team offers free, confidential consultations. You may also submit a written question for the Oklahoma sex crime attorneys using the form at the top right side of this page.

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