Convicted sex offenders should abide by laws requiring them to register their location in Oklahoma.
It’s a public safety measure that we support wholeheartedly.
But three convicted sex offenders are challenging Oklahoma’s sex offender registry law.
They argue that the law is being applied retroactively.
Two of the men say their crimes predated the start of the law in 1989.
Persons convicted of certain sex offenses in Oklahoma prior to 1989 don’t have to register.
But those who are convicted in another state after 1989 have been required to register when they move to Oklahoma.
It is very difficult to sort out because of the need to protect society while adhering to the Constitution.
The argument centers around whether the sex offender registry is punitive in nature.
Registration is part of the sentence in Oklahoma. But can the state require convicted sex offenders from other states to register if their crime was committed prior to 1989?
Ex post facto (“after the fact”) laws are unconstitutional. Article I of the United States Constitution says so.
It is unconstitutional to make laws retroactive. You can’t be convicted of an act if the act was not illegal when you committed it.
But to allow sex offenders convicted of crimes before 1989 to live in Oklahoma without registration makes our state a magnet for such people.
Many crimes including child molestation should carry the lifetime punishment of public registration to protect our citizens.
Laws should act as deterrents. If the crime is legally harsh enough, would-be criminals might think twice before committing acts in our state.
That’s the goal we should be seeking.
The sex offender registry is there for a good purpose.