The passage of a new Oklahoma law that prohibits registered sex offenders from residing together in manufactured homes means that about 70 men must move from a mobile home park in Oklahoma City. There are about 170 registered sex offenders living at the Hand Up community, a 14-acre mobile home park in Oklahoma City, says …
The passage of a new Oklahoma law that prohibits registered sex offenders from residing together in manufactured homes means that about 70 men must move from a mobile home park in Oklahoma City. There are about 170 registered sex offenders living at the Hand Up community, a 14-acre mobile home park in Oklahoma City, says Rev. David Nichols, operator of the community. At its peak, the population of sex offenders at the Hand Up community was 270, although that number dwindled to just 170 last month in advance of the new law going into effect. The men at Hand Up typically live three or four to a trailer, but not for long, as the new OK law will force dozens of registered sex offenders from their homes. Being convicted of a sex offense in Oklahoma can affect your life in significant ways, including your ability to gain employment and even where you are allowed to live. If you are facing criminal charges for a sex offense in Oklahoma City, contact our skilled criminal defense lawyers at Oklahoma Legal Center as soon as possible.
OK Sex Offender Law Called Unconstitutional
The Oklahoma statute was approved in 2011 and went into effect on July 1, 2012. The law was meant to clarify an existing law prohibiting sex offenders from living together, as police say this kind of living arrangement makes criminal investigations difficult. Nichols questioned the constitutionality of the new law in court and lost, with U.S. Dictrict Judge Lee West dismissing the suit late last month. The lawsuit claimed that the new sex offender law violates Nichols’ First Amendment rights by stripping Hand Up Ministries of its right to practice its faith without government interference. According to Nichols, the nonprofit group also owns a 6-acre mobile home community housing married and single sex-offenders, non-sex offenders, and women who have recently been released from prison. The new Oklahoma law meant three people living there had to find a new place to live.
Problems With Sex Offenders Living Together
Residents at Hand Up Ministries’ mobile home park pay a weekly program fee of $100, and receive help finding work, spiritual support and rides to treatment centers. The ministry is intended to help OK sex offenders get back on their feet, but implements strict rules like a midnight curfew and no drugs or alcohol. Residents of the Hand Up community have committed a variety of offenses, including urinating in public and sending sexual emails or photos to underage girls. One man molested a 12-year-old relative while on a meth binge. Despite the varied nature of their offenses, all of these men have been labeled “sex offenders,” and are required to register with the Department of Corrections and local law enforcement every year from 15 years to life.
“I have no problem with Hand Up, with the location or what they’re trying to do,” said OK City Police Chief Bill Citty. “You have to just limit the number of offenders [Nichols] could house within a certain area, and I think that’s reasonable.” Having multiple registered sex offenders living in the same home first created a problem for police in 2009, when a convicted sex offender was arrested and his trailer at Hand Up Ministries was subjected to a search, in which child pornography was found. The sex offender’s two roommates in the trailer had convictions for indecent exposure and sexual battery, and the living arrangement made it difficult for police to identify which individual owned the evidence to be used in the criminal investigation.
Contact an OK Criminal Defense Attorney Today
There are about 1,200 registered sex offenders living in Oklahoma City, but the new law also prohibits them from living near playgrounds, schools, child care centers or parks. Nichols has voiced concerns that offenders who leave Hand Up will be less likely to register their address or may end up living in tents or under bridges. According to Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance, resources for homeless sex offenders are severely limited, as they can’t stay at shelters that help women or children, and federal grants supporting nonprofit programs aiding the homeless typically prohibit the organization from serving sex offenders. “My guess is some of them will become street homeless and they’ll live in camps and under bridges,” Straughan said. Being convicted of a sex offense in Oklahoma could result in you having to register as a sex offender with the state, in which case you will be subject to rules such as this new living arrangement law. Contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center today if you are facing sex offense charges in Oklahoma.