Attorneys for three convicted sex offenders who are challenging Oklahoma's sex offender registry laws told the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday that the regulations are being applied retroactively, which makes them unconstitutional.
Attorneys Jim Drummond, of Norman, and John Dunn, of Tulsa, urged the state's highest court to keep the state from placing their clients' names on the registry. An attorney for the state, Senior Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader, urged the nine-member court to uphold the rules, saying residents need to know whether convicted sex offenders are living in their neighborhoods.
“Give us as much protection as possible,” Leader said. “The children and the citizens of this state deserve no less.”
Drummond represents two men who claim they are exempt from the state's sex offender registry rules because their crimes predate the creation of the registry in November 1989.
Joseph Hendricks was convicted of the Oklahoma equivalent of lewd or indecent acts with a child in California in 1982. He moved from California to Oklahoma in 2009. The second man, Michael Bollin, was convicted of an unspecified sex offense in Missouri in 1987 and has lived in Oklahoma since June 2004.
Dunn's client, James Starkey, pleaded no contest to sexual assault on a minor child in Texas in 1998 and received a deferred sentence. When he moved to Oklahoma later that year, the law required him to register as a sex offender for 10 years. The law has since been changed to require longer registration.
In an unrelated case, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in 2010 that sex offender registration laws could only be applied going forward. The court said defendants should get the benefit of laws that existed at the time of their sentencing and not face punishments that were added later.
Drummond and Dunn told the state Supreme Court that this is what is happening with the sex offender registry. People convicted of certain sex offenses in Oklahoma before 1989 don't have to register, but those convicted in other states do if they moved to Oklahoma later.