Laws Targeting Sex Offenders Take Effect

Thursday, November 1st 2007, 10:27 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Several new laws cracking down on sex offenders took effect Thursday, including a new three-tiered classification system that some experts say misses the mark. The new law was required under the federal Adam Walsh Act, which states must comply with at the risk of losing federal funding, said Jim Rabon, who oversees the sex offender registration program at the state Corrections Department.

Rabon said a survey of people convicted of sex offenses in the past year showed that 78% of those would fall into the highest-risk category. Among the crimes that qualify for the highest-risk category are lewd or indecent proposals to a child under 16, first-degree rape, forcible sodomy, incest and sexual abuse of a child.

``That's the 78% we want to be focusing our efforts on,'' Prater said.

Level 1 offenders must register for 15 years, and level 2 offenders must register for 25.

The highest-level offenders must register for life and must update their address every 90 days. Lower-risk offenders register every six months or one year.

Rabon said it could take as long as 90 days to update the registration information for all the state's offenders.

``I like the intent of the law,'' said Sgt. Gary Stansill of the Tulsa Police Department. ``I think we're going in the right direction, but we are not there yet.''

The new law ranks sex offenders into three categories of perceived risk, based on their offense. What it doesn't do, however, is take each case in the proper context, Stansill said.

Detective Nancy Lombardo, who is in charge of Lawton's sex offender registry, said her agency still is struggling to understand the requirements of the law. While it lessens some requirements for registered sex offenders, it places tougher restrictions on others.

Ultimately, all the change seems to mean is more work for local police and any tangible benefits of the law remain to be seen, Lombardo said.

An Oklahoma law passed last year prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school, park or day care center. The amended version gives a more specific definition of a day care center to exclude some smaller home-based child care centers.

That means police must start redrawing complex boundary maps that outline where an offender can live legally, Lombardo said.

``I would hope it helps, but we already have so many delinquents,'' Lombardo said.

Opponents of the law have argued it puts so much space off limits that offenders find it difficult to find a place to live.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said the residency restrictions designate so much space as being off-limits that it makes prosecuting violations of the law almost impossible.

Also beginning Thursday, aggravated or habitual sex offenders in Oklahoma will be identified when they apply for either an original or renewal driver's license or a state identification card, according to the Department of Public Safety.

The driver's license or ID card of these offenders will be labeled with the words ``sex offender'' in three places on the card. Offenders will be required to renew the license or ID card annually.