The majority of justices, however, decided that Oklahoma's sex registry laws are punitive toward violators and should not be applied retroactively to inmates who were convicted while earlier laws were in place.
Tulsa attorney John Dunn, who represented sex offender James Starkey Sr. in his Supreme Court appeal, said the court's determination that Oklahoma's sex offender registry laws are punitive was critical to the case.
Punitive laws cannot be applied retroactively, he said.
Dunn said there are numerous aspects of Oklahoma's sex offender registry laws that make them punitive.
“Oklahoma law provides restrictions on where a sex offender may live, with whom a sex offender may live, prevents them from engaging in certain occupations or occupations in certain locations, and creates a presumption against them having guardianship or even the right to visit their own children,” Dunn argued to the court.
He also noted that sex offenders are required to get drivers' licenses every year instead of every four years, paying full price each time, and that the state requires the words “sex offender” be stamped on the licenses.
Starkey, Dunn's client, pleaded no contest in Texas in 1998 to a charge of sexual assault on a 15-year-old child. He received a deferred judgment that included community supervision for 10 years, a $4,000 fine and 60 days in a county jail.
Starkey moved to Oklahoma later that year and was initially required to register as a sex offender in this state for 10 years, in accordance with the state's law at that time.
However, after Oklahoma's law changed in 2007, corrections officials contended Starkey would have to register for life.
Tuesday's ruling means Starkey no longer will have to register, since the original 10-year registration requirement time has expired, Dunn said.