“Is this regarded as punishment?” Dunn said. “We believe the act is punitive in nature.”
Justices peppered the attorneys with questions during their oral presentations and several alluded to the seriousness of the issues the registry represents.
“This is an issue of statewide public concern,” said Vice Chief Justice John Reif, of Skiatook. “We're struggling to find the best answer.”
Responding to one question, Drummond said the state has a legitimate public safety concern in alerting citizens about the presence of convicted sex offenders. But, he said, neither of his clients has re-offended since they moved to Oklahoma and “have been good citizens.”
“They have not offended in decades,” he said. “They are not people we need to protect ourselves from.”
Drummond also argued that the sex offender statutes are unconstitutional because they single out a small class of people for special treatment.
Leader said the court has the ability to overturn portions of the law it finds unconstitutional without invaliding the entire registration process.
“Don't throw the baby out with the bath water,” Leader said. “We're trying to protect the citizens of Oklahoma.”
As attorneys spoke in the courtroom at the state Capitol, about a dozen protesters, several with young children, stood on the Capitol's south steps and urged the court to keep the registration requirements in place.
“If you let all these sex offenders off the list, they won't have to follow the safety zone laws that keep them from being near schools or driving ice cream trucks or being a volunteer on school field trips,” Liz Reece of Lawton said.
“I think we need to protect the public as well as our kids,” she added. “The fact is, they committed a crime against the public, and they could reoffend.”