Hundreds of names of convicted sex offenders may be removed from the state's list of registered sex offenders as the result of an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling handed down Tuesday.
In a split decision, the court ruled state corrections officials have been violating the Oklahoma Constitution by retroactively applying state sex offender registry laws, thereby dramatically increasing the time many convicted sex offenders must spend on the registry.
“It should be fairly significant,” Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie said of the impact of Tuesday's ruling.
There are currently 7,704 names on Oklahoma's sex offenders list, Massie said.
Massie said it was probably safe to say hundreds of convicted sex offenders would be impacted but declined to speculate on whether the numbers could reach into the thousands.
Individual case reviews likely will be necessary to determine which convicted sex offenders should be removed from the list, he said.
The Supreme Court issued its ruling after scrutinizing a 2007 state law that requires the Department of Corrections to assign a three-tiered risk level to convicted sex offenders.
The law requires convicted sex offenders to be placed on the sex offender registry for 15 years, 25 years, or life, depending on their assigned risk levels which are tied to the specific crimes they committed.
“We find it was not intended to apply retroactively, but is to be applied prospectively,” the court stated.
Justices issued the decision on a 6-2 vote, with Justices James Winchester and Steven Taylor dissenting. Chief Justice Tom Colbert partially agreed and partially disagreed with the decision.
Taylor and Winchester both said they thought it was constitutional to apply the sex offender registry laws retroactively.
“The public's right to have this information trumps the discomfort and inconvenience caused to the convicted sex offender,” Taylor wrote in his dissenting opinion.