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Oklahoma Supreme Court Remands Consolidated Sex Offender Registration Case

Oklahoma Supreme Court Remands Consolidated Sex Offender Registration Case

by Shepherd Litsey

On November 19, 2013, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings a case involving a registered sex offender required to register for life due to an amended state law applied retroactively.

Christopher Luster pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault on April 22, 1992 in Texas and was sentenced to ten years deferred adjudication. He later moved to Oklahoma and began registering as a sex offender per Oklahoma’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) on September 25, 2003. Under the law at the time, he had to register for ten years. On November 1, 2007, SORA was amended and Luster was notified that his sex offender level was being increased and he would have to register for life.

Luster filed suit in 2011 to enjoin the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) from applying the amended SORA provisions, requesting removal from the registry and freedom from the registration requirement. Alternatively, he argued he should only have to register annually for ten years, with his registration term expiring in 2013. His petition led to the consolidation of 66 other cases raising similar claims.

Luster amended his petition to include all litigants with similar issues, which included three categories of plaintiffs – those with 1) convictions occurring before November 1, 1999; 2) non-aggravated convictions between November 1, 1999 and November 1, 2007; and 3) aggravated convictions between November 1, 1999 and November 1, 2007. He contended that offenders in the first two categories should have to register for no more than ten years and that the SORA amendments were not retroactive. The DOC filed a response brief insisting the legislature’s intent was retroactivity.

The trial court ruled in favor of Luster on September 7, 2011, finding the amendments could not be imposed retroactively. The court listed by name the co-plaintiffs and what action the DOC was to take with each, and set the registration frequency at once per year for all who were still required to register. The DOC appealed.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court cited two recent decisions in which it had held retroactive application of sex offender registration requirements violated the ex post facto clause of the state constitution. However, the Court found problematic the trial court’s imposition of a “blanket one-year registration frequency to all consolidated plaintiffs who were not immediately removed from the registry.”

“For the same reasons we held the provisions of SORA in effect upon a person being convicted in Oklahoma or entering Oklahoma are the only SORA provisions that shall apply to the sex offender, we hold the frequency of SORA verification in effect at that time is also the applicable provision,” the Court wrote. “The correct registration requirements to apply are those in effect when the sex offender was either convicted in Oklahoma or when a sex offender convicted in another jurisdiction enters Oklahoma and becomes subject to those registration requirements.”

Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s prohibition on retroactive application of the SORA amendments, reversed the trial court’s blanket one-year registration frequency and remanded with instructions to review each co-plaintiff’s case individually. See: Luster v. State ex rel. Dept. of Corrections, 2013 OK 97, 315 P.3d 386 (Okla. 2013).

 

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Luster v. State ex rel. Dept. of Corrections


 

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