Sex offenders are using a loophole to help get around the state's registry requirements and some Oklahoma lawmakers say it is putting the public at risk. Now there's a plan to close the loopholes and make the state's sex offender registry more reliable for the people of Oklahoma.
One proposal from Senator Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) would make it illegal for registered sex offenders to change their name. "There was a gentleman in Lawton who had changed his name like 20 years ago and then again recently and he had worked for the Lawton public schools as a school bus driver," Loveless told Fox 25, "If he had kept his original name he wouldn't have been employed because they would have caught him in the first place."
Loveless says some districts rely on searching by names or dates of birth when they do their own background checks and having multiple names makes it more difficult to find a person's past. "Here's a gentleman who purposefully tried to go around the system and this way that would prevent them from doing so."
On the other side of the fifth floor, Senator David Holt, (R-Bethany) has his own proposal to strengthen the sex offender registry. His idea came from one of his voters who kept a close eye on the sex offender registry and discovered pictures of offenders were outdated.
"The current law only requires taking a photo the very first time," Holt said, "After that is says may take another photo and may turns into never."
Holt's proposal would require offenders to have a new picture taken every time they check in with local law enforcement. He told Fox 25, it is now much easier to take and upload photos than it was two decades ago when the law was passed. "Common sense makes sense, Ii think it would have been done in the beginning if they had been thinking ahead."
"The legislature keeps fixing problems that don't exist," said defense attorney David Slane, "They keep piling on law after law after law and the fear is that once you get so many laws in place you're just going to run these people underground and they're not going to register and you're not going to be able to find them."
Slane represents many sex offenders and has successfully won cases pulling a large number of offenders off the registry. He says both proposals are concerning and could violate the rights of people who have served their prison time. "People have been targeted as the victims of violence and murder because they were on the registry and there may be a good reason why a person would need to change their name."
Both senators say their proposals are not final and could be amended to address the concerns of law enforcement, but neither believes their bills would have a negative impact on sex offenders. Instead they say they are most concerned with improving public safety. Both bills passed a Senate committee and are headed to the Senate floor.