The Oklahoma Municipal League recently filed an Amicus Brief in a case brought against the City of El Reno related to the right of a municipality to enforce the provision of the Sex Offenders Registration Act.
A suit was brought against the City of El Reno for applying a retroactive application of the Sex Offenders Registration Act. Because the offender was sentenced prior to current changes to the Act, they are not required to follow current law. The offender is being allowed to relocate their residence to a location that would be prohibited if they were convicted today.
“Municipalities have a duty to protect their citizens, especially the most vulnerable among us,” said Mike Fina, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Municipal League. “Our Law Enforcement Officers know the dangers presented to their communities, and there should be one set of rules to follow to keep habitual and aggravated offenders away from daycares, parks and schools.”
The rules to the SORA change depending on when the offender was sentenced. OML’s position is that all offenders should be required to comply with the current setback rules at the time of their relocation for all prospective residency decisions.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. There are other communities across Oklahoma that are also facing the same issue of sex offenders being allowed to live in areas that are close to day care facilities, parks, and schools.
This Legislative Session, OML will pursue legislation on behalf of municipalities that will require that the Sex Offender Registration laws be standardized, regardless of conviction date, based on the “level” of the offender.
Ponca City has also dealt with an issue of an aggravated and habitual offender who has no restriction on where they can live because the conviction was in 2001.
Chief Don Bohon of the Ponca City Police Department states “At the heart of our mission is a pledge to protect our citizens. Protecting the most vulnerable, is the keystone of that pledge. This issue is so important because a predator is no less a threat to our children and our communities because they were convicted 25 years ago, than because of a conviction 10 years ago.”
Senator Bill Coleman (R-Ponca City) will author the legislation. “It’s most disturbing that because of a legal loophole, a person who is a convicted and a registered sex offender can live next door to a day care, a school, or a park where children play, even if they are sentenced to offender registration for life,” said Coleman. “We have to fix this as a State.”