An Oklahoma House panel approved a bill this week that would increase prison time for convicted sex offenders in Oklahoma who fail to register with law enforcement. Despite the objections of opponents who say it will only make state prisons even more overcrowded, the House Judiciary Committee voted 10-3 for the measure, which was already …
An Oklahoma House panel approved a bill this week that would increase prison time for convicted sex offenders in Oklahoma who fail to register with law enforcement. Despite the objections of opponents who say it will only make state prisons even more overcrowded, the House Judiciary Committee voted 10-3 for the measure, which was already approved by the Senate and now heads to the full House for consideration. This proposed bill is only one example of the life-long effects a sex crime conviction can have on an individual’s life. If you have been charged with a sex crime in Oklahoma, contact our criminal defense attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center for legal help. Our qualified lawyers can help you build a strong defense in your case and may be able to have your charges reduced to a lesser offense, or possibly even dismissed altogether.
Understanding Proposed Sex Offender Bill
According to the proposed bill, failure to register as a sex offender in the state will carry a minimum penalty of five years in prison. The legislation initially would have required a minimum of 10 to 15 years in prison for the offense, but was amended to include a minimum of five years. Judges can currently sentence sex offenders who fail to register to a maximum of five years in prison, but Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, says most receive 90 days and are released with electronic monitoring. “Most people who have to register should realize that’s pretty serious,” said Osborn, the House sponsor of the bill. “It’s not like forgetting to pick up milk on your way home.”
Opponents Call the Measure “Wholly Unnecessary”
Opponents of the sex offender measure argue that the bill removes the discretion of a judge to be more lenient with low-level sex offenders who have committed what could be considered a technical infraction. “What we’re doing here is wholly unnecessary,” said Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater. “We’re basically re-prosecuting them for the heinous crime that they were convicted of committing before. Let’s not forget they were already punished for that crime.” An analysis of the legislation by House researchers shows that 257 individuals were convicted of failure to register as a sex offender last fiscal year. Of those, 219 were sentenced to an average of 3.6 years in prison. If this new bill is signed into law, the minimum penalty for failing to register will be five years.
Convicted Sex Offenders Targeted by Lawmakers
According to David Nichols, the founder of Hands Up Ministries, an organization that helps convicted sex offenders transition back into society, the group is constantly targeted by lawmakers looking to score political points and demonstrate their “tough-on-crime” stance. As it is, Nichols says, convicted sex offenders are already prohibited from living in most urban areas because of restrictions that prevent them from living near day care centers, schools, churches, playgrounds and parks. “They’re more than piling on them,” said Nichols, who provides housing for about 135 sex offenders in a mobile home park in south Oklahoma City. “They don’t want them to have a chance of staying out of prison.”